South America


Events in South America during and after the wars with France provide an interesting insight into Anglo-American interests at that time.

When the war in the Iberian peninsula caused the Royal families of both Spain and Portugal to decamp, almost the entire continent of South America was notionally ungoverned. The Portuguese King declared his country was only temporarily ungoverned but the Spanish King gifted his country to France and this arguably included Spanish colonies (Floridas, Louisiana, California and the Philippines as well as all Central and South America except Brazil) This effectively introduced the norms of European diplomacy into South America. The Spanish colonies were abandoned, their civil services unsupervised. An opportunity for their occupation arose in the same way the European Kings had (in the Treaty of Pavia – see the Europe chapter) agreed to partition France and Poland during the early course of the Revolution whilst the ability of those countries to defend themselves appeared to have been reduced.

America was doing great trade with the northern part of South America both direct and via the West Indies and Caribbean, and with the southern part in the course of voyages to the American west coast for sea otter pelts. These young New England naval captains, who were generally in their twenties, sailed right round the world on these voyages.

The British had the major share of the smuggling trade into Venezuela and Mexico from their colonies in the West Indies and in Caribbean ports. Britain controlled those seas. It was not until Sir Home Popham’s invasion of Argentina on behalf of the India Company in 1806 that direct British influence was extended into the southern parts of the continent.

The thing of interest to America and Britain was Mexican and Peruvian gold and silver. An article below from the Edinburgh Review, datelined 4th November 1809, explains much of the background to British policy in South America and should perhaps be read first. Here it is:

Sat 4th Nov 1809

Edinburgh Review – At the time of the Nootka Sound incident (1789-90), when it appeared that England would go to war with Spain, Pitt received a suggestion from General Miranda in early 1790 to invite the South American Jesuits from Italy to England to see if they would be agreeable to using their influence with the South American natives in promoting the cause of independence.

Of all the monastic Orders of Catholicism, both Montesquieu and Dr Robertson agree that the Jesuits invariably exercised self-restraint and provided the only example of European decency that the South Americans knew.

At the time of Nootka Sound, the Jesuits had been banished from all Spanish lands and a number of natives of South America, who had been proselytised by them and inducted into the Order, had to leave their own countries. One such person was Juan Pablo Vizcardo y Gusman, a Peruvian born at Arequipa.

The Nootka Sound Incident was diplomatically compromised and the matter of South American independence faded from British interest although Pitt assured Miranda that every successive British minister would keep it in view.

Vizcardo y Gusman later wrote the Letter to Spanish Americans by One of their Compatriots in Philadelphia, a 42 page invitation to take the management of South American lands back into native hands. He died in London in February 1798 and left his papers, which included the original of this tract, with Mr King the then American minister to London. General Miranda later printed it for distribution.

Miranda is himself an interesting man. He was born in Caracas and went to Spain at age 17 years (1771) to join the Spanish army. He obtained a captain’s commission but his primary interest was in ideas of social organisation. He requested to be allowed to study in France, where all sorts of ‘dangerous’ ideas were being considered, and was refused. He nevertheless managed to acquire a library of French political works. The Inquisition soon burnt his books but he had already memorised the crucial sentences of what he had read. When France and Spain decided to support the North American colonists against England, Miranda was in a section of the Spanish army that had to liaise with the French. He thus came into contact with people who shared his interest in politics and the experiences and actions of the North Americans gave him ideas for the liberation of his own country. It was in this way that he set upon a life of activism.

Returning to Vizcardo y Gusman, his pamphlet says the South American natives established Spanish government without any charge to the mother country and provided Spain with a constant stream of treasure for which they were rewarded with rapacious and oppressive government. He lists details of the restraints on personal liberty exercised by Spain (the natives were not allowed to run businesses or partake in civil administration, etc.) and the ruinous effects upon them of the commercial monopoly enforced by Spain. He then lists the basic principles of liberty that have most recently been recited in the new Spanish Constitution.

He notes the constant efforts of the Dutch and the Portuguese to contend with Spanish imperialism and the then recent acquisition of independence by their white neighbours in North America and concludes with a generous view of the benefits of prosperity and freedom that was available to the South American people should they wish for it.

British trade with North America has increased annually since that country became independent. America is more valuable to England as a trading partner than she ever was as a colony. She contains perhaps 6 million people. Imagine the effects if the same independence was achieved by South America where there are already over 16 million people! With this in mind, Britons need not concern themselves with Napoleon’s control over Europe – we can redirect our production towards South America and achieve even greater mutual profit with those countries.

An important step would be to open a canal across the isthmus of Panama linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans to provide a new trade route between the Atlantic rim and the Pacific Rim. It would be straightforward to join the Rivers Chagres and Trinidad to create this new route. There are existing safe harbours at either end. The route has been surveyed and all that is required is the will to build it.

Further north is an alternative route using Lake Nicaragua and the San Juan River. The Kings of Spain had a standing instruction to their Governors of St John’s Castle (Nicaragua) not to permit access to the lake to the English precisely because of its significance as a potential link between the oceans.

Miranda came to Europe intent on studying the political organisation of various states. He travelled through England, Prussia, Austria, Italy, Greece, Turkey and finally Russia where the Empress noticed him and issued him a passport providing him with her protection wherever he went in Europe. She gave him access to the necessary funds. That facilitated a visit to France from whence he returned to England. After Pitt’s ministry lost interest in South America, the French Jacobins took it up as part of their then scheme to export revolution.

At that time France was disordered and Miranda went to Paris to observe the process first-hand. He accepted a post in the French army and was serving under Dumouriez in the Netherlands when the scheme for revolutionising Spain was first mooted. In Nov 1792 Brissot proposed to Dumouriez that Miranda would be an ideal candidate but Miranda replied that the South Americans were not ready. Then Robespierre assumed power and Miranda was imprisoned until Robespierre’s death. After that time the possibility of a revolution in South America was again raised but Miranda feared French support might result in simply exchanging one colonial master for another and declined to co-operate.[1]

He then focused his hopes on England and in December 1797 reached an agreement for the purchase of British military assistance by payment of £30 millions in silver (c. 3,300 tons). The treaty was done in Paris, to preclude publicity in London, and is a defensive alliance of Miranda’s junta with England and USA. Provision for a commercial treaty was also included and, most importantly, an arrangement between the Bank of England and the Banks of Lima and Mexico was included in the treaty to facilitate the repatriation of specie to London. The treaty proposed the opening of the two canals described above which were to be protected by England. It also addressed a US term for the independence of all Spanish colonies east of the Mississippi (i.e. the Floridas) which was to be achieved by Miranda’s irregular forces with the support of the USA. Of the Spanish islands, only Cuba was to be taken by Britain in consideration of its strategic location at the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico.

In furtherance of this treaty Lord Melville sent a Proclamation to the British Governor of Trinidad for distribution on the coasts of South America. It called on the people to resist Spain and promised that the Royal Navy would support them. It expressly disavowed a British intention to colonise them.

Miranda met again with Pitt in January 1798 and received agreement to commence the revolution instanter. He was given an introduction to Alexander Hamilton dated 6th April 1798. The plan was for USA to commit 10,000 troops; Britain would commit money and ships, and Miranda would incite the natives to rebel. President Adams was not persuaded and the scheme was postponed for his agreement. Early in 1801 the plan was again put forward but before it could be actioned, the preliminaries of Amiens were being discussed, and this time it was the British who called for a postponement. It came back into consideration in 1804 and appeared to have every prospect of being put into action.

To avoid further delay, and to preserve his support in America (where his contacts in USA, Santa Fe, Caracas and Trinidad were pressing him to start) Miranda intended to commence the revolution relying solely on the Americans (who were in dispute with Spain over Louisiana and had the domestic popular support to make a start) in the expectation that Britain would come to the party once they saw it was working. Adams and Hamilton met him and encouraged him but felt they could not come-out publicly in support at this early stage (they later prosecuted two merchants who were involved). Miranda then returned to New York for mercantile help and the rest of the story is in the public domain.

The failure of the plan was primarily due to two things – firstly, the details were leaked to the Spanish government which alerted its colonial government in Caracas, and secondly the ship captains trading to South America were inclined to do anything that made a dollar, many of which activities were derogatory of Miranda’s revolutionary ideals. Perhaps more fundamental than these two contributing causes was a bit of deception whereby Sir Alexander Cochrane, the Royal Navy commander on station in West Indies, was led to believe that Lord Lauderdale had made peace with Spain.

It was against this background that Sir Home Popham – a ministry insider who knew the hopes and fears of the British cabinet, particularly the importance of accessing the silver supply – launched the invasion of Buenos Aires on the basis that if we cannot liberate them we will colonise them. The Spanish King was by then under French protection and the mother country lacked the means to protect its colonies.

The instructions to General Whitelocke (which came into the public domain at his trial, see Blanchard & Ramsey’s transcript) clearly indicate he was to occupy the province of Buenos Aires for the King and to make only one change in its colonial government – the substitution of George III’s name for the Spanish King’s. This was the little war that the India Company manned and financed for the King as it was, after all, His Chartered Company. An assumption of colonial rights in Buenos Aires might have provided a basis for the colonisation of all Spanish South American possessions in the same way India had been made British. It would preserve the King’s power against the burgeoning influence of the City of London merchants who asserted a preference for South American independence – an elevation of the King’s influence over the City.

The ministry was aware of the King’s act and was assembling a force at Cork under Sir Arthur Wellesley to hopefully get there first. The British force at Buenos Aires discovered that the people were opposed to British hegemony but they were more opposed to Spanish rule. What they wanted was independence on the United States model and the surrender of Buenos Aires was offered to the British if they would first undertake to support South American independence and never return the country to Spain at the peace.

In the event, the race to South America was brought to an end by the Jesuit-assisted, merchant-led insurrection in Spain itself and the subsequent alliance between the rebel junta at Cadiz and England. It then became solely a matter of denying the wealth of South America to France. The colonisation of South America, by Spain or England, lapsed into insignificance and the mercantile wish for its independence returned to dominate political opinion.

Sat 19th Dec 1801

New Orders have been issued by the King-in-Council to H M ships and privateers on 25th March 1801:

Capetown Gazette, 5th September – It is expedient to export English and local produce from the Cape to the Spanish colonies of South America.

As we are at war with Spain this requires an Order-in-Council.

The Governor of the Cape may license such British ships as are suitable for this trade with the enemy. He may also license Cape ships or Neutral ships or Spanish ships as well. The trade is intended to exchange bullion, coined money and other goods of the Spanish colonies in South America for British and South African and other produce from the Cape. Our warships and privateers may not interrupt this licensed trade.

Editor – this licence should be extended to Indian ports and Indian goods. The Americans presently bring South American specie here (to India and China) and take away our produce for the Spanish colonies – we could do it just as well as they do. Spain has never been able to prevent this business although it asserts a monopoly on South American trade. We certainly need to open new markets for our merchants, particularly if Napoleon closes European ports against us

Sat 30th Nov 1805

The merchants of Mexico are opposed to any further exportation of specie to Spain until the Spanish government undertakes to properly protect it.[2]

The Mexican colonial government takes the opposite view – that the silver and gold must be exported to ensure Spanish safety and Mexican merchants can only hope for the best. There has been fighting between the parties.

Sat 7th June 1806

The Company has chartered the Fortitude (Hughes) to carry Chinese emigrant farmers from Whampoa to Trinidad.[3]

Sat 2nd Aug 1806

Sir Francis Baring & Co has contracted with the Spanish government to supply Madrid with $12 millions of Mexican specie in return for Spanish government drafts on her South American colonies. The discount on Spanish Bills on Cuba exceeds 25% and on Vera Cruz exceeds 30%. The profit on exchange from Madrid to London is about 20%.

Baring should get at least $6 millions profit on this single piece of business. Its our fee for Spanish access to South American mineral wealth. Our control of the seas means we offer the only safe means for Spain to remit South American treasure.

Sat 27th Sept 1806

General Francisco de Miranda has done a deal with Madison to take 3,000+ mercenaries from New York to South America with the intention of creating insurrections against Spanish rule and opening the continent to American commerce. Miranda has been pestering the British government similarly for years without success and now he is trying in Washington.

He is an experienced revolutionary and may succeed. Three (un-named) Spanish provinces are said to be in favour of independence and are likely to welcome Miranda’s force. He will establish his base on St Marguerita and prepare for a descent on Caracas.

The American government later denied the press articles reporting its support for Miranda. They have prosecuted Samuel G Ogden, Samuel Murgatroyd and Samuel Governeur who provided Miranda with the ship Leander and the military stores for his attack.

Ogden’s defence is that making war on foreigners is not an offence in American law. Alternatively he says the President and Secretary of State condoned Miranda’s act. If neither of those are judicially approved, he will say he was only helping the Venezuelans to obtain freedom.[4]

Sat 11th Oct 1806

The Cape, 12th August – Colonel Lane of the Company’s St Helena establishment arrived at the Cape today with news that Sir Home Popham has captured Buenos Aires.

When Popham arrived at the River Plata he found a bar about 18” shallower than some of his ships. He sounded all around but could find no way to circumnavigate it. He then crowded on sail and drove straight through it. ‘It was a bit bumpy,’ he said.

He sailed on to Montevideo but that city looked too strong to attack. He continued to Buenos Aires where he seized several ships in harbour and secured a valuable amount of treasure.

After Sir Home’s squadron sailed from the Cape, he put in to St Helena and borrowed an extra 500 troops from the Governor, Colonel Robert Patton, to reinforce the men received from the Cape garrison and better ensure the capture of the Spanish settlement at Buenos Aires. These infantrymen from St Helena were under Col Lane’s command.[5]

Sat 15th Nov 1806

Sir Home Popham is a happy sailor. He has obtained $2½ millions in prize from Buenos Aires. His attack was lightly opposed – only one of his officers lost a leg. Spanish casualties are unreported. HMS Narcissus has taken the silver to London. Popham has asked for a large reinforcement to consolidate his toehold in South America. A complete regiment is being assembled at the Cape for his use.

Sat 6th Dec 1806

Our new acquisition of Buenos Aires was established by the Spanish in 1515 and now has 70,000 residents. The merchants and civil servants have taken the Oath of Allegiance to George III. This will be good for our commerce.

Buenos Aires exports sugar, tobacco, cotton, leather and wool. It pays the gold and silver of Chile and Peru for our manufactures, which are eagerly sought for.

Sat 6th Dec 1806

General Miranda has sustained a reversal. The Spanish governor of Caracas sent a couple of privateers against him on Aruba. The Leander (Miranda’s flagship) sailed away and the two schooners, containing all his arms and ammunition, were seized by the privateers. Unfortunately one of the schooners also contained the printed Proclamations of Independence he was to publish throughout Venezuela – they will make interesting reading for the Spanish Governor.

Most of Miranda’s force are Venezuelan and will be considered Spanish by the Governor. If captured, they are likely to be treated as traitors or pirates. This is looking like a blot on the reputations of Madison and the U S President and an expensive lesson (in foreseeable compensation) for the USA. Jefferson says he will soon retire from public life.

Admiral Alexander Cochrane of the British West Indian fleet is looking for Miranda to offer him English support. That would avoid US embarrassment. Something will be salvaged in view of the importance of South American bullion.

Sat 31st Jan 1807

HMS Narcissus has arrived at London from Buenos Aires with £300,000 in silver from the Company’s expedition that was led by Sir Home Popham. Five of the King’s regiments are ordered to South America to consolidate Popham’s foothold.

Popham has indicated where he took the silver from. $200,000 came from the Philippine Company and about the same amount from the Spanish King’s treasury. The Post Office, Tobacco Bureau and Customs yielded another $200,000. The balance of $500,000+ was seized at Luxam by Capt Arbuthnot’s party. $1.05 million has been sent to London on HMS Narcissus and the rest is kept here for expenses.[6]

Sat 14th Feb 1807

The government has assembled two squadrons of the 6th Dragoon Guards, the 9th and 17th Light Dragoons, the 5th, 38th, 40th 47th, 87th, 88th and 95th Foot and two companies of artillery and will send this force to Buenos Aires to reinforce Popham’s small India Company contingent there.

Sat 7th March 1807

General Miranda, the Venezuelan insurgent who has the support of the American merchants, and now of the British government, is making progress. He has had some minor victories around the south of Lake Maracaibo.

The Spanish Governor has about 4,000 troops to oppose Miranda, of whom half are negroes and natives. He has $90,000 left in his Treasury, few arms and almost no ammunition.

Sat 4th April 1807

The Company’s packet Georgiana (Leigh) sailed from St Helena to Buenos Aires arriving October to discover the shipping in port all flying Spanish colours. She got in sight of the harbour by 19th October but no-one came out to meet her.

She anchored in the outer harbour and sent a boat to a nearby twin-decker but lost sight of it in the fog. When the mist cleared she saw four gunboats approaching. Capt Leigh cut his cables and left in a storm of fire from the gunboats. He arrived at the Cape on 24th November and reported.

Sat 18th April 1807

Sir Home Popham is pinned-down at Buenos Aires and both sides are racing reinforcements to the city in an attempt to defeat the other. With the reinforcement he received from the Cape, Popham has taken Maldunado, a fort near Buenos Aires, and will hold out there.

Sat 25th April 1807

Admiral Stirling has arrived at Buenos Aires and received the command of Popham’s expedition. Sir Home has loaded one of his prize ships with his prizes and sailed for London.

The people of Buenos Aires prepared an insurrection against Popham in July. On 2nd August the first attack occurred and was well dispersed by our artillery. Unfortunately these attacks continued.

The people got cannon into the tops of the churches and kept up a fire. Our chaps could hardly venture outdoors without being shot. Eventually, with the whole populace opposed to us, we hoisted the white flag.

It was agreed that the English march out with full honours of war (we keep our loot) and be exchanged for Spanish prisoners. But in the course of 2-3 days those treacherous Spaniards killed over a 100 of our force of 1,000 troops.

Popham embarked his men and sailed to Montevideo but his bombardment of that port was ineffective – the shallow water frontage obliged him to keep his distance. The reinforcement from London is expected soon. In the meantime, Popham has gone home to report.

Sat 2nd May 1807

The Spanish have recaptured Buenos Aires and our officers are imprisoned.[7] Some British merchant ships ran up the river unaware of the changed situation and were captured in port.

It seems that Miranda has encountered similar difficulties in Venezuela. He got some men from Trinidad but was defeated and had to embark the remnant on his boats. The Leander, the sole ship remaining to him, was captured earlier. A good many of his officers, many of whom are English, have been beheaded.

Thurs 25th June 1807 Extraordinary

Sir Home Popham, just elected MP for Shaftesbury, has been court-martialled for the invasion of Buenos Aires. His support is in the India Company, in the old Pitt and Grenville factions in parliament and in the City whereas his instructions are supposed to come from the Admiralty which officers were not invited to share in the South American spoils and complain he acted without orders.

Nine admirals are to give the prosecution evidence. It will start on 3rd March on board HMS Gladiator.

Sir Home has called Lord Melville to give evidence for the defence. He says that Melville, on behalf of the cabinet, delegated a discretionary power to him to act as he thought appropriate.[8]

From Sat 29th Aug 1807 edition ….

Many army officers and ministerial insiders turned up at Portsmouth to listen to Popham’s Court Martial. Generals Auckland, Gower, Elliot and Eveleigh and Admiral Patten were amongst the attendees. So were the politicians Huskisson, Sturgess Bourne and Harrow. The President of the Court was Admiral Young. He was assisted by Admirals Stanhope, Fowley and Sir Richard Strachan.

Popham was offered a seat for the duration but chose not to accept. The prosecution case was straightforward and was completed in a morning but Popham’s defence lasted five days. No transcript is available. The Admirals found him guilty and bestowed a reprimand upon him.

Whilst the Admirals thought a reprimand appropriate, the City merchants have another view. The Chamberlain of the City has given him a sword in the Guildhall. He was also presented with the keys to the City of London.

Sat 7th Feb 1807

Popham’s Buenos Aires silver arrived at the Bank of England from Portsmouth in eight wagons escorted by Popham’s agent Colonel Davison and a column of troops.[9] When the procession passed the Mansion House, the Lord Mayor turned-out in his civic uniform attended by several of his officers.

Sat 18th July 1807

The Admiralty has found support in its dispute with Popham:

The South Sea Company is a whaling and sealskin company but has inter alia the King’s monopoly of British trade with the east coast of South America. This has historically been useless as the Spanish monopolise the trade of the whole continent. The Company nevertheless has a chartered right to seize British shipping found trading in its exclusive area.

Basing itself on its Charter terms, the South Sea Company has commenced a legal action against Popham for his recent invasion of Buenos Aires. They say all the ships in his fleet were engaged in illegal commerce and, if caught, might have forfeited their cargoes but more importantly they were all notionally uninsured for breach of the ‘legal requirements’ clause.

Lord Temple has come to Popham’s aid.

He has introduced a Bill in the House to ensure retrospectively that every British ship in the South American trade is not required to observe the South Sea Company’s monopoly. This will open-up Chile, Peru and the rest of the west coast as well to our merchants.[10]

Sat 5th Sept 1807

General Auchmuty reported the capture of Montevideo to Windham on 6th February and that officer forwarded the report to Castlereagh on 12th April. We have killed 200-300 Spanish and taken as many prisoners. We have lost 8 officers and 130 soldiers. Some 366 of our men were wounded. The navy under Admiral Stirling gave excellent support. On 16th April parliament voted its thanks.

Sat 12th Sept 1807

By 15th March there were 50 British merchant ships off Montevideo containing an estimated total of £1.5 million of goods for sale. Napoleon has closed the doors of Europe to us and we have to find new markets. The population of Montevideo is about 6,000 people. Some Manchester and Nottingham goods have been sold at a small profit. We are all waiting for the recapture of Buenos Aires which is a town of over 300,000 people. We fear that the hinterland will continue closed to our trade for a while. Our provisions except for meat are very expensive. A whole cow or sheep costs only a dollar.

Sat 19th Sept 1807

When news of the recapture of Buenos Aires arrived at the Cape, a reinforcement was sent off. We now have 12,000 troops in the River Plata of whom a large number are Irish Catholics.

Sat 31st Oct 1807

HMS Resistance has arrived at Portsmouth from West Indies with £4 million (equivalent to 450 tons of gold) in specie. The silver comes from Vera Cruz but HMS Resistance did not enter that port. It is also said the shipment was authorised by both the Spanish and English governments although we are at war. There appears to be more to this shipment than meets the eye.

It is supposed it represents part of the contract between the Spanish government and Sir Francis Baring & Co (and two other companies) to provide the former with $12 millions in silver. Spain cannot herself transport the silver across the Atlantic because we will likely capture it. By paying Baring’s fees, Spain gets protection from our maritime commercial war. By keeping the frigate out of port and sending the silver out to her in boats, the Spanish have avoided offending the colonists at Vera Cruz who might otherwise misunderstand.

The profit on exchange from London or Madrid is about 20%. The discount on the Spanish Bills will be 25 to 30% – that was the rate in Part One of this war for those who bought government Bills on Havana (Bills on Vera Cruz were generally a little better). It appears likely that Barings have turned a 50% profit on the gross value of this consignment.

In fact both governments as well as individuals profited. The British got $4 millions at 4/6d per dollar, allowing Barings 20%; Spain got her treasure remitted in risk-free Bills on London at a nett 3/8d per dollar; Barings also got Spanish permission to export a variety of British manufactures into Spanish South America. Effectively, whilst Spain may claim to own the gold and silver of South America, she is obliged by our naval predominance to share it with us.

Mon 16th Nov 1807 Extraordinary

There is a dispute in London between two former servants of the India Company, General Beresford and Sir Home Popham, concerning the division of prize money from both the re-occupation of the Cape and the invasion of the River Plata. Beresford says Popham should not have the same share as he himself because he is not a flag officer. The Attorney General supports Popham as he led the expedition. Beresford has taken the matter to the Privy Council.

Sat 28th Nov 1807

Sir Home Popham has been rehabilitated and been given a roving commission by the Lords of the Admiralty – it’s a compromise. They do not really want him so he will take command of a small warship and cruise off the rivers and shores of Europe, taking prizes or descending on the coasts to raid as he thinks fit.

Sat 26th Dec 1807

The British invasion force has agreed to leave the River Plata. There was about £3 millions in British property in ships on the river and in warehouses which we had hoped to sell to the Spanish merchants but they resolutely declined to buy.

There are some 300 English settlers on the way, intent on farming in the interior. They are responding to Popham’s inspiring circular of endless opportunity that he distributed through British Chambers of Commerce. Heaven knows what will become of them.

Sat 30th April 1808

The rejection of our trade in the River Plate has caused a bottleneck of loaded ships to form at the Cape. The route from London to South America at this time of year is via Capetown. Some ships are diverting to the West Indies others are coming to India in the hope of disposing of their cargoes here at tolerable prices.

Sat 21st May 1808

The Kingdom of Portugal has ceased to exist in Europe. The Royal Family and most of the aristocracy have emigrated to Brazil. The British Royal Navy gave them all passage across the ocean for which we may expect some commercial advantages in Brazil which is a land capable of great development. Why they all left is obscure. Perhaps the departure of the Spanish and French ambassadors from Lisbon and the approach of a French army had something to do with it.

Sir Sidney Smith took a British squadron of 8 capital ships plus frigates and transports sufficient for 5,000 troops and arrived at Lisbon in late October. He contacted the Prince Regent and said he had come for the Royal Family and their friends and would start shooting if they were not delivered to the fleet.

Our man in Lisbon, Strangford, commended the Regent to accept. The Prince Regent decided to come along and on 29th October a great fleet of British and Portuguese ships moved out of the river heading west, taking the cream of Portuguese society to Rio.

At that time a French army had reached within 20 miles of the capital. The French were receiving help from the Portuguese minister Aranjuez, unknown to the Prince Regent. We have taken him a prisoner to Rio de Janeiro.

Before departure the guns of the forts were spiked and thrown into the sea. The Portuguese Navy has about 14 capital ships and slightly more frigates. A little more than half could be made seaworthy in the short time available and these left the Tagus with the Royal Family. The dearth of naval stores and materials for repairs meant the rest had to be left behind. The Portuguese Royals will have only salt beef to eat on the voyage. About 40 Portuguese merchant ships carried the aristocracy. The House of Braganza is the only Royal Family in Europe that voluntarily abandons its country. What will now happen to Portugal and its people is a nice question. It will be good for England – we will get the trade of Brazil and better access to South American silver.

A fleet of six Russian warships that was anchored in the Tagus was observed by the British warships but left undisturbed. Having removed the guns from the forts we can get at those ships whenever we choose.

England has occupied Madeira with a small garrison. Sweet Madeira wine has an important market in England. The Portuguese residents of the island were initially pleased. They thought we had come to help them defend themselves. They were less pleased when they learned we had assumed the government of their island on behalf of their touring King.

After we arrived, a message came from Lisbon closing Madeira to the English. That was due to French influence. Their army must have arrived.

Mon 20th Aug 1808 Extraordinary

The King has deeply regretted the recent failure of British arms in South America. The court martial and disgrace of General John Whitelocke has not fully compensated for the failure.

Sat 27th Aug 1808

The British Parliament has passed the Brazil Trade Bill which will give that country better terms for exports to England. It is to reward the Portuguese Royal Family for the support given to England in their willingness to emigrate.

It is hoped Brazil will supply some British colonies in West Indies with flour and timber to replace the unavailable American supply (due to the Non-Intercourse Act).

Grenville objected. He thought we were jeopardising our established markets to Brazilian sugar, tobacco and cotton.

Sat 16th Sept 1809

24th April – an Austrian diplomat has arrived in London to collect the £6 million subsidy that his government is to receive for opening another front against Napoleon. He came via Hamburg and Heligoland to Harwich on the Lark packet.

The war in Spain has not been going well and we imperatively need a new front to take the load off the Spanish guerrillas. The emissary will discuss means of transferring the silver to Vienna. The ministry has asked the London representative of the Spanish junta to contribute to this loan – they control Cadiz and have access to the South American silver supply.

Sat 11th Nov 1809

Some Portuguese ships have arrived at Calcutta from Rio and report the Brazil market continues to be glutted with British manufactures. Most of the goods that cannot be sold at cost are being diverted to the new markets at Buenos Aires and Monte Video but prices there are not much better.

Sat 3rd March 1810

Sir Sidney Smith has returned from Brazil and has been congratulated by the Committee of London Merchants trading to Brazil. He says he has tried to extend and secure British trade to Brazil by cementing friendship with the Portuguese.

Sir James Gambier, the British minister at Rio, has been very helpful to Smith.

He also made friends in the Spanish settlements and opened British trade with Montevideo. He expects, by increased trade with South America, that both Portugal and Spain will be able to share a greater part of the financial burden of the war. If we have more money than France, we will win.

Sat 17th March 1810

Whilst British exporters are unable to get profitable prices for their exports to Brazil (indeed many are selling at a loss), it appears the Brazilian people are required to pay excessive prices for everything. The cause is the cartel operated by the resident English importers who take the benefit of the over-supply to buy cheap but sell dear.

The new Portuguese government of Brazil (the Prince Regent and his nobility) has focused its attentions on Rio and more or less neglected the other Brazilian provinces, like Bahia (St Salvador in English texts).

In June the Prince ordered that ten men in every hundred of the Rio militia be conscripted into the regular army. The militia has three times the establishment of the army and decimating it to the King’s troops is seen as an attempt to bring the use of force under direct Braganzan control. As a result the landed gentry, who officer the militias, have protested en masse to government but were ignored. They resigned their commissions in a body.

Government then ordered the Rio militias to parade unarmed in the city square. The officers suspected government would seize the men and press them into the regular army. They led a considerable body of militias to the government offices and notified their intention to ignore the order. Government intent collapsed and all their previous resolutions were immediately countermanded.

Sat 10th Nov 1810

May 1810 – The United Provinces of Venezuela have declared their independence of Spain. They have a huge fertile country that supports 9 million people and, now the Spanish King has abdicated, they feel no interest in remaining as a colony of the junta. They call on the Spanish-speaking countries of South America to join them. They ask foreign nations to guarantee their independence and enter defensive alliances with them.[11]

Sat 24th Nov 1810

The Spanish deputies of the parliament of the newly independent Venezuela have visited Washington DC but were not received as Agents of a sovereign power.

They are now in Philadelphia to talk with the merchants.

The new Venezuelan commercial arrangements will favour USA. The deputies say they might in future submit to Ferdinand VII if he should choose to resume the Spanish crown.

Apparently, when they arrested the Spanish Governor of Caracas, they found a bundle of treasonable letters in his files – he was working for France. They shipped him off with his staff and he has just arrived at Norfolk, Virginia.

Sat 8th Dec 1810

The spirit of independence at Venezuela has not infected the other Spanish colonies. The US government has declined to acknowledge their new state. This line of policy is attributed to the French party at Washington whose influence has increased of late. Mexico remains devoutly behind Ferdinand VII.

The portrait of ex-King Ferdinand VII was displayed in Mexico City square and acted like a charm. About 100,000 people met in the great square on 25th April and burned the Proclamations of the French emissaries. Nevertheless, the ports of Hispaniola have been opened to free trade.

Sat 22nd Dec 1810

13th May was the birthday of Don Juan, the Regent of Portugal, now holding Court at Rio de Janeiro. His daughter Donna Maria Teresa, Princess of Beira, was married to Don Pedro Carlos, Prince of Bourbon and Braganza.

Numerous civil, army and naval promotions were promulgated to mark the marriage. Two British subjects Thomas Stone and Crawford Duncan were made Admiral and vice-Admiral of the Portuguese fleet in Brazil.

Sat 12th Jan 1811

The independence of Venezuela does not extend beyond the city limits of Caracas. The towns of the interior have expressed no interest in independence. They say they will not abandon Spain whilst the popular uprising continues.

The people who had seized the government are now preparing to return it to the Supreme junta in Spain. The Cadiz junta is still holding out.

Sun 13th Jan 1811 Extraordinary

Buenos Aires has declared independence like Caracas. The declaration appears to be the work of both Spanish and English resident merchants. They profess loyalty to ex-King Ferdinand not the junta of Cadiz. They have deposed the Spanish Viceroy and created a junta of merchants.

Sat 19th Jan 1811

The Cadiz junta has declared Caracas in a state of blockade. This creates an unfortunate schism between British and Spanish aims.

British merchants think it unwise for Perceval’s ministry to help the Regency that Wellesley set-up. They feel the junta should ignore developments in South America until it is able to effectively deal with them.

Sat 11th May 1811

Lord Strangford has sent a uniquely obsequious note of 1st July 1810 to the provisional junta of the River Plata, subsequent to the arrival of HMS Bedford bringing 13 Spanish colonial officials as prisoners from Lima.

He wrote “I instantly remonstrated with the Captain and demanded the prisoners be handed over to me. The British government disowns the act of HMS Bedford’s Captain. I will send the men to you as soon as possible.”

Sat 18th May 1811

Baton Rouge, 26th September 1810:

The Spanish colony of West Florida has declared its independence. They say they are betrayed by their Governor, abandoned by their mother country and their only remaining option is independence.

They have decided to form their own government, make treaties and conduct international commerce. Only acts by tribunals that derive their power from the West Floridan people will be recognised.

The Declaration is signed by John Rhea President, Andrew Steele Secretary and 9 other non-Spanish names.

Concurrently a detachment of American troops has garrisoned Mobile.

Sat 15th June 1811

The Governor of Montevideo has protested the acts of British merchants at Buenos Aires, who have created their own government and decline to submit to Spanish sovereignty. Buenos Aires has always been a Spanish possession under the jurisdiction of Montevideo and the Governor thinks it should remain so.

Admiral de Courcy arrived with a British fleet on 29th October 1810 and told the Governor of Montevideo that his (de Courcy’s) instructions were to observe a strict neutrality. He says he is required to protect British trade and he demanded the Governor rescind his ban on British shipping in Buenos Aires Harbour.

The Spanish Governor was incensed – he expostulated endlessly but to no avail. The presence of the armed shipping gives the British Junta a secure base beyond Spanish reach – there is no hint of our supposed strict neutrality in permitting it. The Montevideo Governor says Britain is a Spanish ally and should not be using the opportunity of war to monopolise Buenos Aires’s maritime trade.

As a result of incurring his especial displeasure, the British merchants of Buenos Aires have not been able to remove the Spanish duties on their trade, and they are not sufficiently supported by the residents to smuggle overtly.

They have moved to Phase Two – the threat to take their capital elsewhere. If it could be done, it would cause considerable local distress. England controls the sea and therefore international trade; England is provisioning and directing the guerrillas in Spain, albeit recovering the costs in Spanish American silver. The Governor of Montevideo is in a dependent position and has to compromise.

Sun 12th July 1812 Extraordinary

A large number of Spanish refugees have arrived at Havana in Cuba from the main Mexican port of Vera Cruz. The revolutionaries are calling for independence and have approached close to the city and these merchants and their families see their best interests served by flight. The revolutionaries are said to be irresistible and General Venegas’ small garrison is unable to confront them. The rebels adopt the guerrilla tactics of the Spaniards at home and the Spanish soldiers are depressed.

New York papers of February say a Declaration of Independence was promulgated at Carthagena in December. It is signed by twenty representatives of the various provinces of the country. It is similar to the Declaration made at Caracas by Miranda’s friends. The clause that gives these revolutionaries prestige amongst the people is the cancellation of the Papal Inquisition.

The new Junta at Carthagena has offered to unite with the other places seceding from Spain – the seven provinces of Venezuela and Santa Fe – and there is nothing Spain can do about it just now. It appears the revolutionaries will have time to consolidate their rule.

Sat 7th Nov 1812

Frankfurt Journal – There is a dispute in Rio. A Briton named Billingshurst has a commission in the Buenos Aires army (pro-British). He distinguished himself in the siege of Montevideo (pro-Spanish). He is now in Rio distributing pamphlets amongst the Portuguese troops encouraging their desertion to Britain.

Lord Strangford, our man in Rio, has acknowledged Billingshurst is British. He needs to pacify the Portuguese government-in-exile on which the authority of our Lisbon administration overtly rests. He has allowed the arrest and detention of Billingshurst.

Sat 28th Nov 1812

While Spain is without a King or national government and its homeland occupied by French and British armies, it has become possible to occupy Spanish colonies in the Americas without concern for retaliation.

The invasion of Florida has commenced. The American Patriots descended St Mary’s River and landed on St Amelia Island, of which they took possession. The flags of the Patriots and the USA were then raised over the fort. The Spanish garrison has fallen back to St Augustine which they are fortifying.

Sat 28th Nov 1812

A new Federal Republic of Venezuela has been proclaimed. It incorporates Caracas and six other provinces with a total population of about 900,000. Coconuts, indigo and sugar all thrive and maize and rice are farmed. The forests have abundant timber. Copper and iron is mined.

Colombia (New Grenada) is still considering its options and only the province of Cartagena has repudiated the Spanish Cortes and declared its independence. This country also has about a million people.

Mexico (New Spain) has 5 millions of population and is almost entirely in the hands of the American Patriots and revolutionaries.

The future of Guatemala remains uncertain.

Peru is under attack by the army of Buenos Aires (under British officers asserting free trade). Its population is 1.1 million. It is resisting the attacks but is unlikely to prevail.

The Kingdom of Chile with 700,000 people has declared its independence as has the Viceroyalty of La Plata with 1 million people.

In a very brief time the majority of the colonial Spanish and their peoples have abandoned the supposed cause of the guerrillas in Spain.

Sat 13th March 1813

The United States executive has won popularity in the ex-Spanish colonies of South America. There was an earthquake at Caracas which destroyed much property and provisions. The US government sent Scott with $50,000 of provisions and promises of further help. Scott has told the Federal Union of Venezuela he hopes American ships will be welcomed on the same low terms the British have got – an MFN request. As the Americans will be negotiating with General Miranda, their wants are very likely to be completely satisfied.

On the other hand the priests have attributed the recent devastating earthquake to divine punishment for repudiating Ferdinand VII and the farming people have been impressed by that. The Royalists are still a force to reckon with.[12]

On 26th April Miranda was made CiC Venezuela and is now in negotiations to define the split of power with the civil authorities. He has obtained agreement that the country be placed under martial law and the civil magistrates be ordered to co-operate with his army. The army may conscript and arm the people, tax the people for military costs, prepare defences and act summarily against traitors. They agree to nominate Antonio Fernandez de Leon to be responsible for the national finances and commerce and to maintain confidence in the paper money.

Sat 20th March 1813

The Americans are taking the opportunity provided by war with England to resolve another problem. They are hurriedly occupying West Florida. Col Smith has been given an extra 1,400 men to besiege St Augustine.

Sat 9th Oct 1813

General Miranda has been brought to Cadiz to brief the Regency on developments in South America. He is under British protection for the visit.[13]

Sat 4th Dec 1813

The Rio de Janeiro Gazette of 7th July contains a protest of the Prince Regent of Portugal against the British cruisers off Africa who interfere in the slave trade of his nationals.

He has called for Statements of Claim from all his affected people preparatory to launching claims on the British government.

Sat 30th July 1814

Mexico, October 1813 – The insurrection in the south of the country is gaining ground. Morrilos has severed government communications between Mexico City and Vera Cruz at Perote. He has captured Acapulco de Juarez, the finest port on the west coast and the home port of Manila’s annual treasure galleon. He has also captured San Blas, another port on the west coast opposite the Maria Islands.

Sat 3rd Dec 1814

Meanwhile the Prince Regent of Portugal has settled in at Rio and intends to stay. He has sent his son and the Infanta to Lisbon to act as Regents on his behalf.

Sat 20th May 1815

Five Spanish Deputies from South America who came to Gibraltar intending to negotiate with King Ferdinand VII have been arrested by our new Governor Smith. They were put in a British warship, taken over to Algeciras and handed over to the Spanish authorities who then sent them to prison in Ceuta.

One is accused of publishing an article in Cadiz called ‘the Inquisition unmasked.’ Our consul at Cadiz James Duff is co-operating with the Spanish monarchy, the same as General Smith. Every ship’s captain before departing Gibraltar for Cadiz has to make Oath to Smith that there are no Spanish people in his ship and Duff checks this on arrival.

Sat 22nd July 1815

The Portuguese Prince Regent has written from Rio to the Mayor of Lisbon – he says he is coming back now.

Sat 29th July 1815

The Castalia arrived at Cadiz on 24th January from Callao, the port of Lima. She reports insurrections throughout Peru. Most of the Peruvian army was ordered by Ferdinand VII to Buenos Aires, Chile and New Grenada to suppress the independent governments established in those colonies and restore control to Spain. Whilst it was away, the small residue of soldiers left to garrison the Peruvian towns was attacked and dispersed. It is supposed that the Viceroy of Peru will now return to Spain.

The road between Mexico and Vera Cruz is blocked by the insurgents and no correspondence is getting through. There have been no orders received from Spain for over seven months. Ferdinand’s dissolution of the Cortes and revocation of the Constitution both remain unknown in South America.

Sat 19th Aug 1815

Canning went to Lisbon to brief the Portuguese Regent who is returning from Rio but it has just been announced that he is not coming after all. We spent £40,000 sending an expedition to Rio to bring the Prince back. In return we received a complete list of the intended passengers. It now appears that Lisbon may not again be the administrative capital of Portugal.

Sat 30th Sept 1815

Ferdinand VII at Madrid is concerned for his silver. His South American colonies are all declaring independence and he wants to send an army to ‘restore order.’ In April he sent 2,100 men to Panama and later he sent some other smaller expeditions.

In May he heard that La Puebla has gone over to the insurgents and even Mexico City is threatened. A shipment of $3 millions of silver is stuck at Jalapa because the army reports it is unsafe to go further. Worse, the King’s Viceroy asked the Board of Commerce at Mexico City for a loan of $500,000 on the security of the Customs receipts at Vera Cruz. They refused.

Some 200 Spanish residents of La Paz have been killed by independence fighters.

Sat 17th Jan 1818

The Spanish Royalist troops in Venezuela are suppressing all support for independence with violence. The American merchants, who have been supporting the independence fighters, will have to raise their game if they are to succeed – they generally spare their prisoners.

Sat 21st Feb 1818

Ferdinand VII of Spain has called on Russia for help in recovering his lost colonies in America. The two countries monopolise the Pacific coast of the northern continent which should facilitate co-operation. The Tsar’s price was Minorca and the two Californias which are being ceded in perpetuity to Russia. It makes sense because the South American insurgents are all horsemen and their armies are almost entirely light cavalry. They are ideal opponents for the Tsar’s Cossacks.

Since 1813 Russian adventurers have descended the Canadian coast and reached 500 miles beyond the Columbia River to form a settlement at Bodega about 30 miles north of the most northerly Spanish town. They are using the fertile soil and easy climate to produce provisions for their more northerly outposts. They accumulate their valuables at Kodiak Island where they have a strongly fortified base protected by 100 cannon.

Ferdinand has also asked England for naval help in the same cause. There are numerous privateers operated by the insurgents (manned mainly by Britons and Americans) cruising off the South and Central America coasts. They interdict his ability to send troops to quell the rebels and are obtaining wealth and provisions from their piratical acts.

Sat 28th Feb 1818

The commercial agents at Curacao representing the South American rebels have employed several hundred British officers and NCOs on exceptionally generous pay to serve in the cause of independence. Many of these rebels control silver mines and are well able to pay. The Spanish officials are angry but we told them a country without money cannot expect our support.

On the other hand, the Spanish government is also recruiting British officers on the promise of great reward once they achieve their objects, and a similarly large number of officers are signing-up with them. We may expect to soon see another war like the American War of Independence with Britons fighting Britons.

Sat 28th Feb 1818

The South American insurgents in Upper Peru have contracted with the rump of the Royalist army for an armistice while they agree terms of union and co-operation against Spain.

Privateering has become the principal business of the merchants at Buenos Aires according to the Captain of Duchess of York, which has just arrived at London from that port with a cargo of silver on account of the British merchants in Buenos Aires. HMS Amphion escorted Duchess of York until she was clear of the Plata.

The privateering vessels that the merchants employ are getting bigger and more heavily armed. On 28th June the Consequentia put to sea from Buenos Aires. She has 40 guns and a crew of 500. On 3rd July the Tupac Ameiro sailed with 16 guns and 160 men. There are frequent altercations amongst the crews of these ships due to uncertainty over the precise distribution of the spoils. A dispute on Consequentia the day before she sailed killed one crewman and injured fifteen others before it was settled.

Sat 7th March 1818

Indian Government Gazette, 15th January – The Buenos Aires government (self-styled as the United Provinces of South America) has issued an explanation for the fleet of privateers it has licensed:

‘We only expected them to attack Spanish ships and distress Ferdinand VII. They were not supposed to attack ships of other nations. Under this administration we now take a security deposit from the shareholders of privateers and require them to obey international law. The Portuguese merchant ships recently arrested have been released and returned to their owners. The captors are to pay $30,000 to the owners in compensation for the sold goods. Our privateers are our navy. They act against our enemies in our defence. We have appointed a committee to look into the whole matter. Sorry.’

Sat 9thMay 1818

The undeclared war of the United States in the Floridas has encountered a predictable difficulty. Governor Hubbard has most of the American irregulars and the privateers on his side and appears the stronger party but Commodore Aury has the support of the French faction and has recruited runaway slaves from Georgia. They are both based on Amelia Island. If the Spanish were to attack them now, they would settle this insurrection in no time.[14]

Sat 9th May 1818

London Gazette, 25th November 1817 – the Regent has issued a Proclamation requiring the strict neutrality of Britons in the independence movements of South America. No British people are supposed to assist either the freedom fighters or the Royalist cause.

The American government enacted an all-embracing statute to this effect in 1794 when it was concerned that its citizens might become embroiled in the European turmoil. It extended that Act last year when the Senate concluded there were people, affecting support for liberty, who went armed to South America for plunder.

In spite of these legislative measures, it is overwhelmingly American and British merchants who continue to be involved in South America.

Russia has provided some support to Spain. She has sold four capital ships and three frigates and sent them through the Baltic to Cadiz. The ships are from the Tsar and the crews are to be returned to Russia. The ships’ hulls were made of fir at Archangel and were already leaky when they arrived at London, requiring two weeks repairs for the onward voyage to Cadiz. They have been bought for Spain by Antonio Ugarte and his friends with government money but represent a very poor deal (Ugarte et al are arrested in 1819, partly due to this poorly-selected purchase, and a great quantity of gold was discovered in their possession).

There were no salutes on the fleet’s arrival in London – the Tsar expected his ships to receive an equal salute to the Royal Navy considering himself as the deliverer of Europe from Napoleon, but the Admiralty forbids its captains to offer salute to the ships of any other nation.

The Spanish problem is money. The country has historically derived its wealth from the mines of Mexico and Peru but her receipt of silver is prevented by the insurgents who are using the bullion for their own purposes. It is inconceivable that the European and American merchants could abstain from such valuable trade that pays its returns in silver, so the manufactures of Britain and agricultural productions of USA are going to South America.[15]

King Ferdinand also has difficulty with his people. They tolerated his return until his attempt to restore the trappings of monarchy, aristocracy and the clergy. They resent the cost burden on the people. If the King had wealth, his people might join his army and navy but he cannot afford to pay many men.

Eleven British army officers have been arrested at Philadelphia. They were preparing to embark for South America to join the independence movement and form a regiment of cavalry. The pay is astonishingly good. A considerable number of British and American adventurers have already gone to South America but these eleven chaps were a little late. They travelled via Antwerp where two of their Sergeants unintentionally revealed their destination to the Spanish Consul and he obtained a requisition on the US government to arrest them all.

Their defence is that the ship on which they have booked passage is cleared for Surinam and not a Spanish colony – they have not broken the law. Their case will be heard by the Philadelphia circuit court which is expected to be sympathetic.

The American legal officer prosecuting the case against them is Bushrod Washington.[16] He says:

‘the emancipation of an oppressed people is urged as an excuse for these military expeditions. Obedience to the laws of our country is the first duty of a good citizen. A wilful violation of these laws, however we might approve the motive, can never find an excuse. I must nevertheless suspect the sincerity professed. Search to the bottom and it will be found in cupidity for that wealth which is torn by power from the hands of its defenceless owners.’

The independence fighters are doing well. Some of the Spanish troops that were sent to quell the uprising have instead joined the rebellion. General Calzada is said to have defected to the rebels with all his force and has assisted in the defeat of Correa and Gorrin, two of his erstwhile colleagues.

In mid-December 1817 the London-registered Grace (Davey) was stopped at Cowes with 80 army officers on board. She had a Clearance Certificate for St Thomas in the Virgin Islands. The ship had no papers and had not reported any passengers. The Grace belongs to FitzGerald who was previously queried about carrying unmanifested passengers on the Caledonia. The Grace was caught fortuitously – two of the officers fought a fatal duel at Northwood Park in Cowes that attracted the attention of the authorities.

Sat 20th June 1818

Henry Clay, the Speaker of the Philadelphia legislature, has condemned the prosecution of the eleven arrested British mercenaries. He also condemns the arrest in Boston of ships of the Spanish freedom fighters. These public recriminations will not assuage the doubts of the Spanish ambassador.

Clay says America is supposed to be neutral – we should consider the interests of the unrepresented party in the quarrel.

Sat 11th July 1818

Report from Mexico, 20th October 1817 – the road from Vera Cruz to Mexico City is one of the finest on the planet.[17] The journey used to take 70 hours in perfect security. It now takes two weeks and one needs a platoon of soldiers for escort.

The Spanish garrison at Vera Cruz is reduced to 900 men, mostly locals and slaves. They are generally untrained and dare not come out of the fort. It is the same in the other garrison towns. The King of Spain no longer controls this country. The only thing restraining the complete progress of the rebels is the lack of arms and artillery.

Nevertheless, the Royalists had a rare success in the recent capture of General Mina, one of the rebel chiefs. They executed him.

Sat 29th Aug 1818

General Miranda has just died after four years incarceration in the prison at La Caraca near Cadiz. The wars of independence in Venezuela were characterised by great violence – treaty breaches, murder of prisoners, massacre of unarmed citizens.

Bolivar had to proclaim in July 1816 that European Spaniards should not be killed except in battle and that those who surrender should be pardoned. We hope he will succeed in humanising this atrocious war.

When Miranda was commanding Venezuela and the Spanish General Monteverde came to re-assert imperial dominion, he (Miranda) accepted the terms of the Constitution that the Cortes had proposed for Spain and in return commended his people to again submit to Spanish rule. Once the Spanish army had achieved control of the country, Miranda was sent back for a chat under British protection but was arrested and gaoled. One has to be careful when dealing with Imperial powers.

Simon Bolivar was one of the deputies who came to London in 1810. He had a small army in New Grenada and by Aug 1813 had captured the province and entered Caracas. There were some small areas of Royalist resistance remaining but Bolivar offered his power to a Representative Assembly which in turn bestowed dictatorial powers on him. Spain responded by promising liberation to the slaves if they would first defeat the insurgents. By this means the Spanish General raised a slave army of 70,000 which defeated Bolivar and commenced to reassert Spanish dominion. Bolivar fled to Carthagena where General Morillo in command of 10,000 Spaniards (the only considerable army that Spain sent to her former colonies) besieged him for four months in the summer of 1815.

Bolivar was assisted by General McGregor, one of Wellington’s Peninsula War veterans, and is now in control of the countryside while the Spanish royalist forces hold most of the towns. The methods of the insurgents in South America duplicate the Spanish resistance against Soult in Spain – its guerrilla war. Perhaps MacGregor is tutoring them. The key to the insurgency’s continuing success is Amelia Island, off the east coast of north Florida, which is the place US merchants deliver supplies for shipment to the rebels.

The Spanish receive little sympathy from the citizens. They seem unable to moderate their excessive violence and this has united the people against them. After the Spanish troops invested and occupied Quito, they arbitrarily selected one in five residents and publicly executed them in expectation that the survivors would submit – it drove resistance underground. Bolivar secured Santa Fe de Bogota for the rebels and was reducing Carthagena when General Morillo arrived from Spain and obliged the two parties to negotiate. Whilst Morillo has had some successes, the insurgents captured and published some of his communications with Madrid which contain his assessment that unless a constant stream of reinforcements was sent over he could not prevail over an entire hostile populace.

The ownership of Mexico is the main concern of King Ferdinand. Its population is 6 million and its mines have been made accessible from the ports. Whilst the archbishop was Viceroy of Mexico, the people remained quiet but then some of the Spanish expatriates put up the priest Hidalgo to front the insurgency and he accumulated an army of 80,000 men with which he captured the richest mines. The clerical Viceroy of Mexico Venegas does not have the support that Hidalgo can call upon but has used the authority of the Inquisition to excommunicate Hidalgo and that caused the more faint-hearted citizens to reflect. The Spanish General Calleja then drove Hidalgo off and defeated him. Soon afterwards one of Hidalgo’s own Generals betrayed him and executed Hidalgo and his senior advisers. The insurgents formed a Congress and proclaimed a democratic Constitution. They still rely on the regular supply of arms, ammunition and provisions from our merchants and they get everything they need because they pay high prices in silver. A good many soldiers from the late European war, devalued in their own countries by peace, have come over for this new well-paid game which is ultimately about control of the silver supply.

The same war of liberation from the oppressive cruelty of Spain has been fought in the south of the continent. The Portuguese support given to Montevideo had to be withdrawn eventually and the only place now somewhat under Spanish control is Lower Peru where a loyal military government sits at Lima. Spanish ability to retain Lower Peru derives from the huge amount of capital held in that province and the immense slave army that is loyal to its owners because they have the wealth to care reasonably for their dependants.

Ferdinand’s problem is he does not know who is a friend and who an enemy. His communications with the former colonies are repeatedly disrupted by the operators of privateers whose words are democratic but whose acts are self-interested. These armed cruisers patrol right across the Atlantic to the Spanish home ports. The force he has been able to send has not been very effective for one plausible reason or another so Ferdinand remains in Madrid asserting he is the King while the money he needs to make it real is in South America and leaking away to insurrectionists and foreign merchants.

This is a great opportunity for British trade and we should all recall the words of Lord Grenville during the debates over renewal of the India Company’s charter in 1813 that we should hope to acquire “a free trade with the rich countries of South America …. (which) … in every case have been opened to the commerce of the World”.

The South American people are no longer impressed by the Inquisition. It has ceased to be an instrument for the elevation of religion and has become a repressive instrument of policing. They know what is going on. The thoughts of the French philosophers have travelled around the world and the burgeoning trade with USA and Europe is ensuring that South Americans know it too.

It is a nice point that the part played by France in politicising North America is now being played by Britain in South America.

Sat 5th Sept 1818

News from the Baltimore papers:

The brig General Jackson has arrived at Baltimore from Caracas with news of the South American insurrection. Bolivar is calling for the three regiments of British mercenary troops that are standing-by here to come down and start work. The insurgents are buying Royal Navy surplus warships from our recent wars with France.

It is plausibly reported that Ferdinand’s army under General Morillo was defeated in February and the General impaled on a pike through his body. The rebel Admiral is agreeable to the US annexing Amelia Island. All he wants is for us to sell our ships to him. He is not extending privateering – he actually wants to end it now so he can use the ships to achieve the final removal of Spanish forces by blockading those fortified ports they still hold along the coast.

The Spanish still have Talcohuana in central Chile where they have recently arrested two American ships – the Canton from Salem and J J Astor’s Beaver – and imprisoned their crews. The Spanish are prosecuting the American officers but permitting the British to trade anywhere. The Governor of Chile has asserted his country’s strict neutrality and deplored the acts of the troops at Talcohuana.

Thurs 10th Sept 1818 Extraordinary

Congressman Clay has moved in the House of Representatives that America recognise the independence of La Plata. He lost by a majority of 70.

Sat 3rd Oct 1818

Guyana – 2,200 British mercenaries have arrived here on contract to the insurgents. The Royalist forces seem to be in serious difficulty.

Ferdinand has put all his money into a final expedition to South America – it is fitting-out at Cadiz and will sail at end July.

He has to solve his own problem otherwise the neighbours will have the shirt off his back.

Sat 3rd Oct 1818

The King of Portugal, still on tour in Rio, some time ago declared himself to be the ruler of Buenos Aires. He has now proclaimed his son to be King of Peru and has approved the Constitution adopted by the Peruvian people.

Sat 3rd Oct 1818

Spain is bankrupt. Minister Godoy’s plan for raising revenue has failed spectacularly. The army is unpaid and rebellious.

Sat 31st Oct 1818

Ferdinand has proclaimed in Spain on 8th May that every armed foreigner found in Spanish South America will be treated as a rebel and shot.

Sat 19th Dec 1818

Chile declared its independence on 1st January 1818. Ferdinand VII’s military expedition to the country to restore his imperial authority may be too late. The USA has recognised Chilean independence.

Sat 26th Dec 1818

Spain has just taken-off all the import taxes on British cotton manufactures.

We must have conceded something to the King but details are unavailable.

Sat 8th May 1819

Letter from Buenos Aires:

The independence party in Chile is in control of the entire country. Lord Thomas Cochrane has arrived at Valparaiso. He is appointed by the independent government of Chile to take command of the national navy.[18]

He has already captured two Spanish frigates, five transports and 2,000 Spanish troops. It looks as though all South America will be lost to Spain.

Sat 8th May 1819

James Monroe has reported on the State of the Union (excerpt):

We have a slight difficulty in the Floridas. Spain is unable to administer her colonies. Amelia Island became a centre of anarchy last year. A group of international adventurers assumed the government. We have tried to be neutral but the conflict overflows the Floridas to affect our own country. We were neutral throughout the war that destroyed Spain but she has since had a few years to recover and still it goes on. The adventurers have been active all over the Floridas and have incited a war with the Seminole Indians. As a result American people are attacked in revenge for the oppressive acts of these adventurers.

We are still awaiting indemnities from Spain for our losses under the Treaty of 1802. Spain really should cede Florida to us. It is of no value to her but valuable to us. Cession would relieve Spain of her obligations under the Treaty of 1795. Other countries have paid us the indemnities due, why not Spain?

The governments of Venezuela and Buenos Aires disclaim any involvement in Florida which is basically a commercial thing not an independence thing.

We sent Major General Jackson into Florida to chastise the Seminoles but it transpired that officers of the Spanish government were actually arming the Indians. It is not the act of a friendly government given Article 5 of the 1795 Treaty whereby Spain agreed to restrain the Indians. Jackson said he could only beat the Indians if he could cut-off their military supplies. We authorised Jackson to occupy Pensacola and St Marks as bases against the Indians. I wanted the Indians to know that Spain could not protect them from us. He executed a couple of British adventurers (Arbuthnot and Ambrister) which had a salutary effect on the arms supply to the Seminole. Once that lesson had been administered I told him to withdraw. I will be reporting in full to Congress on our plans as I need congressional approval to deal with Florida.

I have sent commissioners to South America and they have reported on the situation there. Spain has lost control of her colonies. Buenos Aires declared its independence in July 1816. It had been administered by an independent government since 1810 that alleged nominal allegiance to Spain. Banda Oriental, Entre Rios, Paraguay and the town of Sante Fe (places in or near Argentina) have also declared their independence. Their governments are separate from Buenos Aires. Venezuela has declared independence but is still in civil war. All of Spanish South America is in arms except Monte Video and the eastern bank of the River Plate which has been occupied by Portugal but may still be available to Spain by negotiations.

The Spanish government has circulated the other European countries requesting mediation of her South American difficulties. It was one of the residual problems left for the Congress at Aix-la-Chapelle and it appears no European power is willing to exert itself for Spain. The peace Plenipotentiaries have confined themselves to verbal condolences. It appears the matter will be left to Spain to resolve with her colonies and I think that is a just conclusion.

Sat 15th May 1819

The South American freedom fighters bought a couple of our surplus warships – HMS Cumberland and HMS Windham – and renamed them San Martin and Laularo. They have just captured the Spanish frigate Maria Isabella and five transports carrying 2,500 Royalist troops to Lima. This will allow the independent party in Chile to concentrate its forces against Lima.

Lord Cochrane went to Valparaiso to assume command of a fleet of three 40-gun frigates and several smaller ships. He then put to sea to cruise against the Spanish frigates Emeralda and Venganza which are still at large. We hope Cochrane will find in South America the reward he deserves and which has been denied him in England. Two excellent frigates have been built in the United States and delivered to Buenos Aires. Strangely, the U S Federal government says its strictly neutral! They are to sail round to Chile where the navy of the independence groups is being assembled.

General Artigas of the independence movement at Buenos Aires has licensed 150 privateers to cruise against the Portuguese from Rio who have pretensions to assume the sovereignty of Montevideo. They are operating mainly in the river estuary and have captured many Portuguese merchant ships. This will diminish Portuguese interest in obtaining a foothold on La Plata, as promoted to them by Sidney Smith, unless they are prepared to fight for their trade. At present supplies to Montevideo are disrupted and shortages are expected soon.

Sat 28th Aug 1819

Colonel Eyre sailed from Galway in mid-April with his mercenary corps to join Sir Gregor MacGregor in South America and combine their forces against the Spanish Royalists.

Sat 28th Aug 1819

The American President has “let slip the dogs of war.”  The US Navy and mercantile marine is to sail against the privateers of the South American freedom fighters.

On 3rd March the Senate enacted a law permitting American ships to bring pirate ships into port and make prize of them. The law provides for the execution of any one discovered acting piratically. This will be a blow to the adventurers.

Sat 18th Sept 1819

Jamaican newspapers of 22nd March report Bolivar has an army of 16,000 troops of whom 6,000 are British. The war with Spanish Royalists continues along the Orinoco.

Sat 18th Sept 1819

House of Commons, 28th May – The government is amending its legislative power to prevent British subjects from serving in the armies of foreign countries without its permission. Existing law on the subject (enacted in 9th & 29th George II and 9th George III) provides for capital punishment which the government is unwilling to apply in the extant conditions of South America.

The new law makes a misdemeanour of foreign service without permission. The law criminalises both the subject and the ship’s captain carrying him to the foreign state. People fitting-out and / or operating privateers on foreign service are also outlawed.

There is widespread fear in commercial circles that this law will damage British trade in South America and a series of Petitions to parliament is being prepared in the main ports.

Sat 9th Oct 1819

India Gazette, 13th September – Lord Cochrane’s navy of independent Chile has under-estimated the strength of the Royalist navy of Lima. On discovering it in an initial brief skirmish, he withdrew from battle.

Once his blockade was broken, a Spanish ship was enabled to leave port and has since arrived at Rio en route for Cadiz with over £2 million (220+ tons) in silver. If they can get it back to Ferdinand VII, it will make all the difference. Cochrane is expected to seek for reinforcements from Buenos Aires and return to do battle.

Sat 9th Oct 1819

Buenos Aires, 5th February 1819 – The independent governments of Chile and Argentina have made a treaty of mutual offence against the Royalist government still holding out in Lima, Peru.

Gregorio Fagle represents Argentina and Antonio Jose de Yrisarri represents Chile. They agree to invade Peru, occupy Lima, establish an independent government and withdraw as soon as the newly-established Peruvian authorities feel confident to manage their own shop.

An account of the expedition’s expenses will be maintained and Lima will be invited to schedule repayments as it thinks convenient. Chile and Argentina will guarantee the independence of Peru once it is liberated from Spain.

Sat 6th Nov 1819

Le Pilote, Paris 15th June – Spain is selling Cuba. Our old friend Sir Home Popham is in Havana with a fleet of three capital ships and two frigates. He has told the Governor he will buy the island and it will be delivered to him once the home government in London confirms the deal. Ratification is expected in about 9 months.

British possession of Cuba will counter the expansion of USA into the Floridas and the threat the Americans are now able to pose to our valuable West Indian trade.

Apart from the usual agricultural productions, Cuba is the main market for slaves into the USA, West Indies and some of the South American states. This provides an argument the ministry can use to bring the liberal Whigs on board – control of the main slave market will make the elimination of trading in slaves to West Indies more easy to accomplish.

Subsequent to the sale of the Floridas to USA, the British were concerned and interested. It is rumoured in London that the ministry would like Panama, Chiloé (off south Chile) or Monte Video. Popham’s jaunt in Cuba seems unauthorised like his previous venture in Buenos Aires that lit the fires of independence in South America.

Before advancing a territorial claim however the British minister has notified the Spanish government that he expects repayment of the costs Wellington incurred in removing the French.

He values British military services in Spain from 1808 to 1814 at £265 millions. That demand, coming from the hegemon of the high seas, should loosen Ferdinand’s grasp on his American possessions.

Sat 13th Nov 1819

London, 10th June – the Common Council of the City of London met yesterday to comment on British citizens acting as mercenaries in South America and British shipowners fitting-out privateers for operation in those waters. It has issued a statement:

We think Ferdinand VII is tyrannical and oppressive, that he depresses our Spanish trade with unfair charges, and that there is legal authority for the proposition that Spanish administrative incompetence in its colonies permits us to intervene commercially.

However, we are peace with Spain and the ministry seeks to preserve our neutrality in South America. There is a large fleet of British ships in Spanish ports waiting to take the Royal army across the Atlantic and restore Spanish rule.

The Council formally deplores this expenditure of British revenue in the service of an uncooperative ally.

Sat 13th Nov 1819

Lord Cochrane, as Vice Admiral of Chile, has ordered a blockade of the coast of Peru from Guayaquila to Atacama commencing 1st March 1819. Friendly- and neutral-flag ships may not carry Spanish goods. Neutral ships with double papers shall suffer the applicable penalties. Neutral ships with Spanish military officers or merchants on board will be taken to Valparaiso for condemnation.

Sat 13th Nov 1819

A fleet of transports is taking an army of 5,000 men from Liverpool to South America to fight in the cause of independence. It is led by General Devereux. They are just in time.

The Foreign Enlistment Bill came up for debate in House of Commons on 10th June. It seeks to prevent Britons from fighting against our national allies. Many MPs resent the restrictions that Ferdinand VII has placed on our trade at Cadiz. With friends like Ferdinand who needs enemies, they say.

In 1806 Spain was under the influence of France and prohibitive duties were placed on all British goods. In 1808 we united the Spanish under our leadership to free them from French influence and all the prohibitory duties on our trade were cancelled. In 1814 Ferdinand VII returned and within 6 months had restored the onerous tariff of 1806, giving it retrospective effect. All our legal trade has been destroyed. Our merchants are arrested, their houses searched and property taken despite Spanish treaty obligations. We are being used.

In South America it is a capital offence to trade with any country except Spain. USA sent out Commissioners to Buenos Aires and their report revealed just how valuable South American trade is. We cannot ignore this market. We send £2 millions of goods to Buenos Aires and £400,000 to Spain each year – it is a no-brainer.

The Acts of the 9th and 29th of George II require Licences be issued to British officers serving in foreign armies. Three have been issued for Spanish service although over 50 British officers are in the Royalist army in South America. Last week two unlicensed British officers in Spanish service (‘unconvicted felons’ in the paper) attended the Regent’s Levee in full dress uniform. We should repeal those laws.

Sir Gregor McGregor’s army was raised in this country and transported to South America in British ships yet the government took no action. Not only is the cause of South American independence just but its good for business. We seldom get both together. But we should take care that people do not suppose for a moment that we are there just for the money.

Sat 27th Nov 1819

Count Casa Flores, the Spanish ambassador to the Portuguese court in Rio de Janeiro, received an instruction from Madrid to win-over Jose Artigas to the Royalist cause by whatever means worked. Artigas is leading the Uruguayan independence struggle.

Flores drafted an appropriate letter and sent a Spanish officer to deliver it. After some hardship the officer delivered the letter which Artigas read. His reply was to shoot the messenger.

The plan of the insurgents is becoming clear according to private letters from Chile. Admiral Cochrane’s job is to remove Spanish warships from the west coast of South America and he has recently reported the capture of the Spanish frigates Esmeralda and Vengeance.

Once Royalist forces have no means of moving around the continent except on foot, San Martin will attack Lima, their last outpost and stronghold. Spanish power in South America will soon be historical.

Sat 4th Dec 1819

South American news:

  • London Courier, 7th July – Colonels MacDermott and Begg are each taking 600 men to South America to join the freedom-fighters. They will sail from Dublin on 17th July.
  • General Devereau’s army of 5,000 fully equipped troops left Liverpool for South America in early July. They will join the independence forces. The troops are all Irish. That country is so enthusiastic in the South American cause that Devereau might have assembled 50,000 men if he had the money.
  • General MacGregor has left Porto Bello for Aux Cayes. He is said to have secured an extraordinary amount of silver and overlooked his duty to General Macirone who required support. MacGregor says he still has 2,000 men and intends another assault upon a suitable Spanish town.
  • Meanwhile 860 men are boarding the Monarch and Rambler at New York in conformity with the terms of military service contracts issued to them by Agents at Jamaica where a further 600 men are awaiting the arrival of the Americans to complete their regiment. This force is also intended to assist the insurgencies in South America.

Sat 4th Dec 1819

London, 22nd June – the minister assembled all his supporters to get the Foreign Enlistment Bill passed its first reading 190 / 129. It is the Bill that will prevent British mercenaries from fighting for the cause of independence in South America.

If this Bill is passed, it will plug-up a vast resource to British commerce. It now goes to House of Lords where it should get more stormy treatment. Its enactment is far from certain.

Sat 4th Dec 1819

There has been a slight local difficulty for the burgeoning insurgency in South America and it has been caused by some famous capitalists. HMS Andromache has delivered 5 million Piastres to the defenders of Lima for the Royalist cause.

Lord Cochrane who is commanding the blockade of the Peruvian coast says he would have attacked the frigate notwithstanding its nationality but the Chilean Government is anxious not to displease London and declined to authorise him. This looks like a hole in the insurgents’ arrangements.

Sat 4th Dec 1819

London, 1st July – a letter from Jamaica of 19th May says the Royalist General Hore totally defeated MacGregor’s army at Porto Bello. MacGregor was one of very few survivors. He escaped through a window and swam out to the ships where the proceeds from his previous raids is stored.

Col Rafter managed to secure the fort temporarily and sent off a message to MacGregor requesting permission to capitulate. MacGregor disallowed that and said he was on his way back but instead cut his cables and sailed away.

As a result English losses are large. On the other hand, from MacGregor’s perspective, the people participating in the loot are reduced to a small number. The few British survivors at Porto Bello are now at jeopardy from Ferdinand VII’s order for the execution of any armed person in South America not in his own service.

Sat 11th Dec 1819

Morning Chronicle reports that tranquillity has been restored in Mexico, according to letters of 7th April 1818. The road from the silver mines to Vera Cruz is reopened and safe to use. An English frigate has just sailed to London with $1 million and Parker, the British Agent at Vera Cruz, has a Spanish government Licence to ship another $10 millions (280 tons).

A few weeks ago it appeared nothing could prevent the whole continent becoming independent – now this.

Thus are colonies lost and won.

On the other hand the complete liberation of Chile appears at hand. Col Sanchez commanding the rump of the expedition from Cadiz is surrounded by hostile Arancan Indians. He has lost all his baggage and is seeking for terms.

Sat 22nd Jan 1820

Lord Cochrane, the Admiral of Chile, has obtained a supply of Congreve rockets for his fleet. He seems to have no problem obtaining the latest munitions.

Sun 6th Feb 1820 Extraordinary

London 7th September – Lloyd’s is offering a popular policy.

It pays £100 if Spain goes to war with USA within the next two months. The premium is 25%.

Sat 12th Feb 1820

Ferdinand VII has finally declined to ratify his cession of the Floridas to USA.

Sat 19th Feb 1820

The ministry has obtained Spanish agreement to sell us $9 millions of silver FOB Vera Cruz in return for British Treasury Bills. No other terms of the agreement are available yet.

Sat 4th March 1820

Royal Gazette, Jamaica, 28th August – Lord Cochrane has taken a fine prize in Petit Callao containing $100,000 silver. That is the 4th or 5th valuable ship he has captured.

Sat 25th March 1820

London, 1st November – Information has just been received that MacGregor’s 2iC Colonel Rafter and 11 other British officers were beheaded by the Royalists.

Sat 25th March 1820

Lord Cochrane has captured the Guayaquil convoy – 8 valuable merchant ships escorted by a Spanish frigate – off the Peruvian coast. It is estimated to be worth $3 millions in silver.

Sat 29th April 1820

Lord Cochrane is said to have transferred the immense wealth he has obtained from privateering to the independent government of Chile. He has dispatched a frigate to Manila where a treasure ship is thought to have gone.

Sat 6th May 1820

General MacGregor has done it again. He organised an attack on Rio de la Hache, a town in New Grenada west of Lake Maracaibo. His force has diminished to 200 men out of the 1,200 when he commenced operations for the freedom fighters.

The assault succeeded but he lost another 60 men. He himself stayed on his ship and only landed after the first attempt had failed and before the second successful one commenced.

As a result his new 2iC Colonel Norcott and seven other of his officers published a Protest against him.

Sat 20th May 1820

Kingston Jamaica, 25th October 1819 – Rear Admiral Sir Home Popham, in command of the Jamaica fleet, has been promoted to the red and changed his flag accordingly.

Sat 20th May 1820

Royal Gazette, Jamaica, 23rd October – The independence movements in South America, which prospects had appeared so bright just a few weeks ago, have been put in jeopardy by Sir Gregor MacGregor.

Under the specious pretext of liberating a suffering people, he has been exploiting his selfish ends to the total ruin of many fine British officers, veterans of the Peninsula War.

After his costly loss of Porto Bello, he went to Aux Cayes in Santo Domingo where many of the English and Irish mercenaries had been delivered by the transports. MacGregor was to receive 1,250 men at Aux Cayes but, owing to incompetent logistics, only 200 still survived at the time of his arrival, the remainder had died through starvation or disease, or had taken employment in the plantations.

He sailed in three ships with his 200 new men on 27th September and arrived at Rio de la Hache on 4th October. A Spanish mercantile schooner was seen and, as MacGregor’s ship was the only armed one, it was expected he would engage. Contrarily but characteristically he stood out to sea leaving the two unarmed ships unprotected. Fortunately the Spanish ship did not attack. MacGregor eventually entered the harbour of Rio de la Hache flying British colours. When he ran up the flag of independent New Grenada he was fired on by the shore battery and withdrew. He prepared his force to land at midnight and attack the town. He assured his men that the local people were all freedom-fighters, the unfriendly fire had been a mistake and there were few (600) Spanish troops in the garrison.

Lt Colonel Norcott organised the landings, his instructions being simply to get the men ashore and await MacGregor’s arrival. The landing was inexplicably undisputed unless it is recalled that Rio de la Hache in common with many other towns in the area is surrounded by ravines and hills covered in dense thorny shrub which form part of the town’s natural defences.

The party was soon attacked by a piquet that came along the beach and, as this was the only practical route forwards, Norcott engaged and fought until daybreak by which time he was still 1½ miles from town. He then bivouacked expecting MacGregor to arrive but instead the Spanish troops got into the scrub and commenced an attack all along the landward side. Norcott put his men into the thickets as well and dispersed his assailants. He then started the march to town along the beach which in due course brought him within range of the battery which opened and maintained a fire of grape-shot. The invisible enemy in the shrubs continued its sporadic sniping as Norcott made slow progress. Eventually a few resolute men assaulted and carried the battery and within a short period the town was completely cleared of enemy soldiery and the flag of independent New Grenada was hoisted over the place.

Of the 170 men landed, 3 officers and 20 men were killed, 2 officers and 4 men are missing presumed dead and 49 others are wounded. Norcott took the 3 batteries containing 29 cannon and an immense quantity of ammunition and two schooners in the harbour whose value is to be assessed.

Norcott then sought to advise his CiC and saw the ships standing-out to sea. Norcott and a few good men rowed out in a boat and informed MacGregor that the town had been taken whereupon the General brought the little fleet into port. During Norcott’s absence on this errand the men had discovered and liberated a liquor store and in very little time had rendered themselves completely uncontrollable. Fortunately the enemy had been shocked by Norcott’s determined attack and did not return. Next day Lt Cols Norcott and Rafter were invited out to MacGregor’s ship, made up to full Colonels and awarded the Green Cross, an Order of Valour that MacGregor had created at Porto Bello. The officers resented MacGregor’s failure to engage the batteries with his armed ship but he did not respond meaningfully.

He then came ashore and commenced a celebration with some towns-people, in course of which, he loosely mentioned that if he could raise 300 cavalry in Rio de la Hache he would have no further need of his own (expensive) men.

As the circumstances in the town clarified, Norcott learned that the garrison had actually been 80 troops and the major part of the 600 enemy was in fact composed of the towns people and a few members of the local Indian tribes. They said their opposition to the English had been based on the supposition we were pirates but in fact it soon became clear that the entire populace was opposed to us. One officer and nine men were murdered during the night and no-one knew anything about it – just big eyes and raised shoulders.

The efficient part of MacGregor’s force – Colonels Norcott and Rafter, Captains Gilbert, Cox and Lowe, Lieutenants Dames and Mullion and most of the soldiery – declined to receive his further orders and sailed away in the schooner.

Sat 24th June 1820

Once the government of Buenos Aires heard of the refusal of the Royalist army at Cadiz to embark for South America, they abandoned their defensive preparations and committed their army to march to Peru and overcome the Royalist government that still commands at Lima. It will be joined by a force from independent Chile.

They will concert their activities with Lord Cochrane who commands the Chilean navy and has spread his vessels along the coast in a loose blockade. He will probably resume the blockade of Callao once Lima is invested. Callao is the port of Lima, the residence of all the merchants and a major depository of wealth in the country. It is well protected from naval attack but the landward defences are deficient.

These preparations suggest that if the army can successfully besiege Lima, the country will fall to the insurgents. Peru extends all along the pacific coast of South America and its loss to Spain will be disastrous.

Sat 21st Oct 1820

A letter dated end February says all shipping coming into Buenos Aires attracts 8% duty on all cargoes that are not off-loaded for that port. The export duty on grain is $1 per bushel and on jerked beef $1 per piece.

General Rondeau, the ruler of Buenos Aires, is known as the Supreme Director and he licences everything that is exported. The silver coming into Buenos Aires is mostly exported one way or another and a paper money has been instituted but depreciates very quickly and is unpopular.

The hinterland is still in the possession of the Monteneros who impede much of the former trade. General Artigas is approaching Buenos Aires with an army. On 3rd February the export of beef, flour and bread from Buenos Aires was prohibited. It was supposed that Rondeau is preparing for a siege.

Sat 21st Oct 1820

The New York Traveller, 6th June – The news of Ferdinand VII’s submission to a Constitutional monarchy for Spain reached Havana on 8th May.

A popular government was sworn-in and the Governor was required by general acclaim to take the Oath of Office four times in the city square.

Two English brigs were in port at the time, each with $500,000 on board in silver, purportedly for the Spanish King. Both ships were boarded by representatives of the new government and the cargo was taken ashore with the message ‘if the King has any demands on us, let him send his account’.

Sat 2nd Dec 1820

London Morning Advertiser 3rd July – HMS Blossom has arrived from Buenos Aires. Her captain reports that Gomes, the Buenos Aires minister to Paris, has reported a French cabinet project to unite the independent governments of South America under a Prince of the House of Bourbon (the Bourbons rule in France, Spain and the Two Sicilies). The project is to be concealed from the British who may be expected to oppose it.

It appears to be de Cazes’ idea.[19] The concept derives from the disgust all European monarchs have for Republican governments. To be acceptable to Europe, the South Americans need a Monarch but the Kings can tolerate a Constitutional monarchy. If the South Americans can organise themselves, France will offer men and materiel and promote the recognition of their new independent government in Europe. The chap proposed as King of South America is the Prince of Parma. He is a nephew of Ferdinand VII of Spain and was formerly Prince Royal of Etruria. He is 18 years old and has received a liberal education.

The French further advised Gomes that an alliance with the Portuguese would enhance stability, in view of their Brazilian possessions, and they suggest a marriage between Ferdinand’s nephew and a Princess of the House of Braganza should follow. The French are assured of Romanoff and Hapsburg family support. They assess that Britain will oppose it but can hardly state her reasons publicly. Ferdinand could be brought on-board as its ultimately just a property transfer within the Bourbon family. One of the important French aims is to reduce the wealth Britain is taking from South America and raise France and Spain to a parity with the islanders.

When Gomes received this proposal he was reportedly flabbergasted and declined to comment on it. He wrote back to Buenos Aires for instructions and thus the whole plan became public. Buenos Aires has a two-chamber legislature and appears unlikely to endorse the idea. First their Constitution will require substantial amendment which is inconvenient and difficult to get popular approval for; second a Bourbon prince would be as suspect as Ferdinand VII himself whose style of government is well remembered and detested; third a Europhile King might place European interests above those of the South Americans.

South America geographically cannot prosper without navigation for its trade. The Buenos Aires government feel that means Britain must imperatively be involved. The independent states are actually quite comfortable with British influence as its only money and not political power that Britain seeks from them.

Sat 6th Jan 1821

Rio de Janeiro, 17th April – The proposal of the continental Kings (ex Prussia) to assume the sovereignty of South America has created disturbance. A coup has evicted General Rondeau’s mercantile dictatorship at Buenos Aires and introduced a confederation with the provinces in the hinterland. Sarratea was named Intendant of Buenos Aires.

Then Balcarce induced a counter-revolution for the merchants and Sarratea’s supporters fled. A few days later Sarratea returned and Balcarce’s group fled.

The former commercially-minded ministers have now been indicted for Treason – they are alleged to have committed Chile and Buenos Aires to accept Bourbon monarchy in a secret treaty with France. An army is being assembled at Buenos Aires by General Carrera to invade Chile and it is expected the entire populace of that country will welcome him.

A second indictment is prepared against the same ministers for negotiating with General Lecor, who commands the Portuguese garrison at Montevideo, to unite that place with Buenos Aires under a Bourbon King who will marry a Portuguese princess to protect the Portuguese investment.

The Portuguese King in exile here (Rio) has indicated his preference for having one of his sons assume the monarchy of Montevideo and, hopefully, Buenos Aires and Chile as well.

Sat 24th March 1821

Lima Gazette, 25th Nov 1820 – some steam engines were shipped to Lima a few years ago to drain the silver mine shafts at Cerro de Pasco. Don Pedro Abrada is leading the efforts. He is also tackling the difficulty of smelting the ore. Smelting is a technique that was formerly unknown in Peru.

A few foreigners have died in the process of draining and ventilating the shafts but all the silver extracted in 1819 and 1820 was made possible by their work. Formerly many hundreds of native miners died each year from the effluvia of the ore.

Engines have been installed at Santa Rosa and Yanacancha and are soon to start pumping at Caya and Yauricucha. The silver production of Peru is about to increase substantially.

Sat 16th June 1821

The ship Stanmore arrived Singapore from the Chilean coast on 22nd December and reported that Lord Cochrane had cut-out the Spanish frigate Ezmeralda (44) from Callao harbour. It is the last Spanish frigate on the coast and an insupportable loss to the Royalists whose Callao General was so incensed by the possibility of assistance having been given to Cochrane from the town that he permitted a general massacre of resident foreigners. A boat crew from the frigate USS Macedonian comprising an officer and 14 men was caught in the massacre and also killed.

Two British frigates HMS Andromache and HMS Hyperion are anchored off Callao for observations.

A deputation from the Spanish Cortes has arrived at Buenos Aires to discuss the matter of independence and a French 74 with an Embassy on board has also arrived at that port.

Sat 16th June 1821

The revolution in Portugal has extended to Madeira and, more recently, to Brazil. Grand Para, the most northerly of the Brazilian captaincies, effected a bloodless revolution in early January.

A previous attempt in Pernambuco last November failed.

King Joao is said to have acceded to popular demand in mid-December and intends to sanction a Constitution for Portugal similar to the Spanish model.

Sat 1st Sept 1821

Jamaica, 6th March – reports from Santa Martha say the Independents and Royalists of Colombia have agreed a 6-month armistice on 28th November 1820 preparatory to negotiating a permanent peace. Carthagena and Maracaibo are open for business during the armistice. The Royalist General Morillo has gone to Spain to confirm the terms he can agree.

Sat 15th Sept 1821

The King of Portugal faces a dilemma. If he returns to his homeland, his South American possessions might choose independence; if he does not, the homeland will continue to flirt with Constitutional government.

He continues to say he will go to Lisbon but has not yet left Rio.

Sat 22nd Sept 1821

HMS Icarus arrived at Portsmouth on 25th May. She stopped at Rio and learned the Portuguese King has formally notified all the foreign ambassadors in that city that he is really leaving for Lisbon. A fleet is preparing in the harbour to take him there but nobody quite believes he will go.

The suspicion is that the Prince Royal orchestrated the revolution in Portugal. He thinks he should rule Portugal whilst his father remains happily in Rio.

Sat 29th Sept 1821

Bolivar has belatedly assessed that the present armistice will mainly operate to the benefit of the King of Spain. He has adopted the declination of the Royal negotiators to recognise the independence of Colombia as pretext for ending the armistice almost as soon as it was made. It will last only 40 days which is the notice period for early determination under the Treaty.

Morillo is still on his way to Spain and his deputy Miguel de la Torre was advised that hostilities will recommence on 28th April.

Sat 1st Dec 1821

King Joao VI of Portugal is still reluctant to return to Lisbon. He has sent a message from Rio on 3rd April saying the Great Powers have mistaken his opinions in supposing he, along with the Kings of Spain and Naples, opposes constitutional government.

King Joao is convinced that the Cortes is the legitimate government of Portugal. He says any interference by the Emperors in the affairs of Portugal will be considered as flagrant aggression.

Sat 29th Dec 1821

Manila, 6th May – The ship Our Lady of Carmel arrived from Acapulco on 29th April and reported that a shipment of $700,000 silver was stolen by thieves posing as freedom-fighters at Chipachingo. The silver was sent from Mexico City with an escort of 1,000 men.

On the way the escort commander declared himself a supporter of Mexican independence. He distributed $120,000 amongst his soldiers, retaining the balance as a gift for King Ferdinand VII’s coronation as Emperor of Mexico, so he said.[20]

The money represents the proceeds of Spanish investments from Manila in Mexican mining over an extended period and its loss will impoverish several prominent families in the Philippines. It may not be a bad thing. The trade with Acapulco has enervated the Spanish merchants at Manila and prevented their developing the country in the usual way. Instead of farming or mining or other constructive pursuits, they sit around awaiting the annual treasure ship from Acapulco to fund their lifestyles.

Sat 5th Jan 1822

South America – Lord Cochrane’s blockade of the Peruvian ports is affecting neutral trade. He is the Admiral of the Chilean Navy whilst San Martin is the General of the Chilean Army. The Peruvian Royalist forces are at Lima under the Spanish King’s Viceroy to Peru General la Serna but the General’s troops have declared for independence and the Constitution.

La Serna has asked Cochrane and San Martin to go away whereupon he will make a treaty of alliance with Chile. Lima is thought to be fabulously rich and if they go away, they fear La Serna will make-off with the silver. The town has seen better days but everyone knows, when the Duke de la Palada made his original entry as Viceroy, the inhabitants honoured him by covering the route with silver ingots (which he collected and were valued at £17 millions – c. 1,900 tons). The churches are full of silver and precious stones.

Every businessman wants to go to Lima, like the Muslims go to Mecca – it is a religious thing for a devout capitalist.

Cochrane is on thin ice – his privateering has upset the merchants of England and America whose ships and goods are arrested in Peruvian harbours. He still holds five British and one American ship.

Sat 2nd March 1822

Salem Gazette, 12th June – On 6th November 1820, Colonel of Marine D Jewitt of the South American frigate Heroina took possession of the Falkland Islands in the name of the Supreme Government of the United Provinces of South America. His Proclamation was read in the presence of several American and British residents.

Sat 9th March 1822

Singapore Gazette 14th February – the Indian Oak arrived here from Callao on 10th January. She reports the Royalist General La Serna was starved out of Lima, which fell to the Independents on 6th July 1821 and General San Martin was then declared Protector of Peru.

He is in dispute with Lord Cochrane over some personal interests but they put on a united front for the people.

San Martin convened the Congress of Lima on 14th July and they made a Declaration of Independence the following day. Callao did not capitulate until 21st September. The remains of the Spanish army is at Juancacy but Lima is the market for national production and without it they are lost.

Meanwhile Iturbide with 20,000 men has taken Mexico City and the northern part of Mexico has chosen independence.

Sat 6th April 1822

Brazilian trade is reeling under the impolicy of the Directors of the Bank of Brazil. They have issued considerable amounts of bank-notes which are supposedly payable at Sight but recent applications for payment have resulted in disclosure of the approved means of repayment.

The Directors at Rio on 20th August were offering to pay, for every 1,000,000 note presented, 800,000 in fresh notes, 150,000 in silver and 50,000 in copper. For a 100,000 note you receive 75,000 new notes, 15,000 in silver and 10,000 in copper. A 50,000 note is exchanged for 40,000 new notes, 6,000 in silver and 4,000 in copper. Less than that and the entire settlement is in copper.

Silver has disappeared from the circulating currency as it is now worth a premium of about 8% over paper and increasing. Gold attracts a 28% premium at present and has long disappeared from circulation.

Some small capitalists have stopped payment entirely and the foreign trade (mainly British merchants) expects the problem to get worse.

Sat 20th April 1822

The Spanish Viceroy of New Spain, Count de Venadito, has agreed a plan for the provisional government of the territory with Don Augustin de Yiurvide, the Commander of the Independence Army.

Ferdinand VII is offered the leadership of the Republican government provided he attends personally to take the Oath of Office. Alternatively it is offered to the infante Don Carlos or some other member of the Spanish Royal Family.

All inhabitants, irrespective of race, are citizens of the new Republic. The religion is Roman Catholic and the clergy is preserved as hitherto. An army is formed to guarantee religion, independence and amicable relations between South Americans and Europeans.

Sat 25th May 1822

At end of October 1821 nearly all of Mexico was in the control of the independents except for the port of Vera Cruz which is commanded by Col D Avila, a staunch supporter of Spanish constitutional monarchy. Vera Cruz is naturally defensible, like Cadiz, and provides a strong base.

One aspect of the independence party in Mexico is perplexing. The leader Iturbide has the support of the people, yet he offers the clergy to restore the Inquisition. It will be a unique event to see that institution operating under a constitutional government. One or other must be temporary.

Nevertheless, these South American revolutions have effectively severed Spain from the sources of her wealth. The ex-colonies will become great competitors in the production of cotton, sugar, coffee and other tropical commodities. In the South they produce wheat, wine, tallow and hides. There are two places (in Nicaragua and Panama) where a canal may be cut linking both sides of the continent, thus opening trade to the whole world.

At present it appears the advantages of independence will mainly flow to Britain which has the capital to dominate the shipping and the development of production. Much of the continent is very suitable for European emigration. It should become an important region of commerce and industry.

Sat 25th May 1822

Gazetta de Santa Marta, 27th October – the Congress of independent Colombia has declared the amounts of Customs duties payable on imports to the ports of this country effective 1st January 1822:

  • 5% will be payable on metals, paper, medicines and naval stores.
  • 17½% is payable on all sorts of cloth.
  • 20-25% is payable on luxuries.
  • 35% is payable on all foreign liquors.

No other charge is made on the import trade.

Sat 8th June 1822

The dispute between Lord Cochrane and General San Martin is confirmed to be about money. The naval force under Cochrane has done very well in prize-money but the officers and crews see that as primarily the result of their own efforts. They are supposed to also receive wages from San Martin and he has not been paying, considering the wealth they have amassed.

San Martin has committed his funds to other more pressing matters. Once he had secured Lima he immediately set about the liberation of Arequipa.

Meanwhile La Serna’s Royalist army has withdrawn into Alta Peru and is faced with two unpleasant choices – surrender or a long march to Buenos Aires.

Sat 10th August 1822

Lord Cochrane was reported in October 1821 to have removed the Chilean Customs Service to the high seas. He is stopping every merchant ship, advising the Captain of the deranged state of government ashore, and taking part of the cargo in lieu of Customs dues.

Sat 17th Aug 1822

The merchants of London are preparing a petition to the ministry to permit ships from the Republics of Buenos Aires, Chile and Colombia (that trade directly to Britain in the productions of their own countries) to trade on the same terms as USA and Brazil. They wish to pre-empt any move by the new governments to place high duties on British exports to South America.

Colombia recently enacted a law providing a 5% extra duty on cargo brought in non-Colombian ships. We do not want that idea to spread and the preferred basis to trade that all the Republics share is the American idea of reciprocity.

Sat 24th Aug 1822

The King and Cortes at Lisbon instructed the Prince at Rio to come home. He is to bring with him most of the Portuguese fleet of warships that are in Brazilian harbours. The order arrived at Rio in December 1821 and caused the residents to petition the Prince to stay. They say, if he goes, they fear a military government will succeed him.

The Prince agreed to relay their fears to the King and await his reply.

The CiC however convened a meeting of Generals which in early-January decided to force the Prince to comply with his father’s wish. There are about 1,300 Portuguese troops in Rio and the vast majority of the army is composed of Brazilians.

Thus towards the end of the month the Generals with 1,300 men confronted the Prince with 6,000 – 7,000 native Brazilians. This was sufficient to persuade the Generals to stand-down.

King Joao’s problem is money. The Portuguese economy is small and dependant on exports of sardines, port wine, leather and cork. He needs the resources of Brazil and his other colonies to maintain his style. If the Brazilians chose independence like their neighbours, Portugal will decline in Europe.

Sat 21st Sept 1822

The Spanish Cortes has asked President Madison to withhold recognition of the South American Republics (he commended recognition to Congress in his State of the Union speech).

They say the situation is not as settled as Madison believes and, at least in Peru and Columbia, the countries are completely anarchic.

The ministry in London is also tending towards this line. London was for years carried away by the propaganda of the independents who sent many diplomatic missions to Europe.

Sat 21st Sept 1822

Gibraltar, 3rd May – The Portuguese expedition under General Souza that was sent to Pernambuco arrived 17th February and Brigadier de Mello landed with a body of troops to take up the duty of Military Commandant of the town.

The demand for independence seems to have been contained at Pernambuco and most other places remain calm. One ship with General Souza then sailed for Rio where he will deliver the King’s message whilst two others have taken troops to the north of Paraiba.

Sat 5th Oct 1822

Lisbon, 13th May – The Cortes is considering the withdrawal of the Portuguese garrison at Monte Video. The troops were originally sent to protect Portuguese lives and property when the Spanish government of Monte Video collapsed. However the government of Portugal wishes to be seen to respect the independence of every country.

Some officials however opined that the northern bank of the River Plate was the natural geographical southern limit of Brazil. On a vote 84 / 28 it was decided to retain the garrison at Monte Video.

Sat 5th Oct 1822

London – Hullett Brothers & Co., the merchant bankers, have contracted a loan for the Independent Government of Chile.

It is for £1 million divided into 10,000 bonds bearing 6% interest.

Loans for Portugal and Austria are also said to be an advanced stages of negotiation.

Sat 19th Oct 1822

Lima Gazette No 29 – Jose de San Martin has assumed dictatorial powers under a provisional statute that will remain effective until the Peruvian people are able to govern themselves. He says the last pockets of resistance must be cleared-up before the Constitution can be drafted and adopted. He swears to be good.

Cochrane is doubtful about San Martin. He disapproves the way the General allowed the Spanish forces outside Lima and in Callao to march away with their arms and all their property. He thinks they should have been decisively defeated. He is also dissatisfied with San Martin withholding wages from his naval force. After taking Callao, San Martin loaded about $6 million in silver, being the wealth of the town, onto marine transports in case the Spanish returned and he had to leave. Cochrane removed this nest-egg to his own flagship and used part to pay the outstanding wages of his crews. The balance is said to have been sent to Chile as a Peruvian contribution to the costs of Chilean assistance. He sent part of the fleet back to Valparaiso with this prize-money.

San Martin was incensed. He responded by creating the Peruvian navy. He used every inducement to encourage Cochrane’s men to desert to the new fleet. A number of officers and a good many seamen accepted the offer (they have been cooped-up on board for months performing the blockade) but may be regretting the move as none have yet been paid. Cochrane has been obliged to pay his remaining men frequently but he has retained some of the Callao silver to do so.

The Spanish Royalists are concentrated at Arequipa and that is the place Cochrane and San Martin will have to attack if they wish to remove the last vestiges of Spanish influence and set-up the Republic of Peru. Whether the two commanders can co-operate for that long is a nice question.

Sat 2nd Nov 1822

A letter from Philadelphia of 17th May says the House of Representatives passed a Bill recognising the South American Republics but the Senate, ‘that semblance of aristocracy’ the writer calls it, rejected the measure.

Sat 9th Nov 1822

The Portuguese Prince Royal remains in Rio and, by a letter of 5th June, appears intent on establishing an independent government with a separate Cortes there. This will leave King Joao VI with only nominal sovereignty over the Brazils.

Sat 30th Nov 1822

Lisbon, 26th June – the Cortes has been debating a Constitution for Brazil. It is agreed that a complete union between the two countries is impossible. The 1st article of the draft says there will be two Cortes, one for Brazil and the other for the Kingdoms of Portugal and Algarve. They will be comprised of representatives elected by the people. A debate on this ensued for the rest of the day without reaching a decision.

Sat 30th Nov 1822

House of Lords, 17th June:

The Colonial Trade Bill authorises free trade with all foreign colonies, whether independent or not (i.e. South America is included).

Sat 18th Jan 1823

Rio de Janeiro, 18th May – King Joao’s son, the Prince Royal has assumed the title of Prince Regent and Constitutional Protector of Brazil. A manifesto is being sent to the courts of Europe explaining the Prince’s act.

Meanwhile the deputies to the provincial cortes of Brazil have been told not to go to Lisbon. It looks like a first step towards Brazilian independence.

Sat 8th Feb 1823

Iturbide has been declared Emperor of independent Mexico but he is already unpopular. His first mistake was to legalise the Inquisition in Mexico – that pleased the priests but alienated the common people. His second was to prohibit the repatriation of assets to Spain which upset his colonial Spanish supporters. He still has the support of the army and the foreign merchants to rely on.

Sat 29th March 1823

Sir John Bowring has been arrested as he was boarding the packet at Boulogne for Dover. He says he went to Paris from Madrid for commercial reasons. He was carrying many sealed letters. Some were from the Portuguese ambassador at Paris to his colleague at London. Others were addressed to Garcia, the representative of the Peruvian independent government in London.

The French government accuses him of disseminating treasonous documents. The holding charge is ‘defrauding the French post office of business by usurping its monopoly’ – that is also a misdemeanour in English Law.

Bowring says it is notorious that all letters sent via the French Post Office are opened and he was merely assisting some diplomats to deliver their letters without inspection.

The matter was discussed in the Commons. Canning said he would not protect Englishmen from the reasonable laws of foreign states.

At the same time in a related development, Sir Robert Wilson was ordered out of Paris. He was preparing to visit Madrid as the authorised representative of the Columbian government empowered to negotiate terms of independence with King Ferdinand VII’s government.

Sat 29th March 1823

Bengal Hurkaru 8th March – an unsuccessful attempt to throw-off Spanish rule at Manila has occurred. It appears the discontent was fomented by two priests and two army officers who had all recently arrived from South America.

The four ring-leaders were arrested and put back on the ship on which they came for dispatch to Spain where they will be tried.

The population of the Philippine Islands is estimated at over 3 millions. They would have no difficulty in expelling the Spanish but they seem unable to confront the decisiveness of the European and Eurasian population at Manila.

Sat 5th April 1823

A loan to the independent government of Peru has just been concluded between the deputies recently arrived in London from Lima and a merchant bank in the City.

The deputies first offered it to the bankers who marketed the Colombian loan and arrangements were nearly complete when those bankers inexplicably withdrew – that put the price up. The main terms of that failed negotiation was for 75% payment at 6% interest (i.e. Peru gets $75 for each $100 borrowed on which latter figure it pays 6% a year).

The terms of the successful loan are not available.

The Spanish still have a substantial army in Peru and independence is not yet assured – what the deputies have been able to obtain will doubtless be less attractive than the Colombian business.

Sat 19th April 1823

The Congress of Verona has ended and it is predicted that the four great Kings (Austria, France, Prussia and Russia) will declare war on Spain and Portugal. They are incensed at the loss of the South American colonies to the independence parties, the consequent loss of the silver supply and the threat to monarchical government that the increasing wealth of the new Republics represents. They wish to reinvigorate the Iberian monarchies and use those instruments to restore the status quo ante in South America.

The plan concerted by the Tsar and the French Bourbons was to send the Russian Black Sea fleet to Toulon to refit and from there invade and occupy Minorca which would be retained by Russia as a permanent Mediterranean base from whence she could influence the Spanish ports by sea and provision a French invasion force in the same way the British provisioned Wellington at Lisbon and Cadiz. The British representative at Verona is co-incidentally Wellington – he sent his friend and co-representative Lord Fitzroy Somerset to Madrid to advise King Ferdinand VII. Proposals for the diminution of Spanish Constitutional rights were subsequently aired in Madrid (see above).

England is sending 7 capital ships to the Mediterranean to observe.[21]

Sat 26th April 1823

Brazil appears to be changing to a social form of government. The press is free and the number of weekly newspapers at Rio has increased from 2 to 12 in the last few months. The Prime Minister is Jose Bonifacio. He is very popular and is being compared with Benjamin Franklin. Trial by Jury has been established and the Editor of one of the papers has just been acquitted of libelling the Prince Regent. It looks like the dawn of a golden age for the Brazilians.[22]

Sat 17th May 1823

London, 20th December – The Prince Regent at Rio has offered Lord Cochrane the command of the Brazilian navy. All Cochrane’s officers are offered one rank above their present rank if they will join.

The same offer is extended to the establishment of the entire Royal Navy. All British sailors coming to Brazil and entering the Brazilian naval service will receive £3 a month.[23]

Sat 17th May 1823

San Martin and Bolivar have met at Guayaquil on 27th July 1822 and agreed to unite their Peruvian and Colombian forces to extinguish the last two pockets of Spanish Royalist support at La Serna (?) and Arequipa.

An English paper of 4th January 1823 says Lord William Bentinck is charged with a special mission to Madrid.

Sat 24th May 1823

Calcutta Journal – General Jose de San Martin has lodged formal charges with O’Higgins for the Chilean government against Admiral Lord Cochrane.

He says Cochrane takes prizes containing stores that the independence army needs to prosecute the war but sells them in the ports to distribute the value to his men as prize. He then buys them back at necessarily higher prices for on-sale to San Martin’s forces. Cochrane also charges the army a monopolistic freight rate for provision of all necessaries. He charges the Peruvian army for the wages of his sailors knowing the wealth available to the joint force is mainly sourced from naval prize-taking.

Cochrane says he has contracted with his crews to pay them a year’s wages as gratuity and this requires he first predate on the merchant shipping to preserve his effectiveness in fighting the mutual enemy.

San Martin says Peru agrees to meet the reasonable costs of naval services provided by Chile but Cochrane’s charges are very much on the high side. The merchants agreed to provide funds to support the army but Cochrane does not contribute. When we remonstrate with him he says he will not respond unless Chile sells its navy to Peru whereupon he will become a servant of the Peruvian government. Every time we talk with him he asks for money. We thought we were friends.

Recently Cochrane arranged a fund with some associates purportedly to purchase bullion for the minting of a coinage in Peru. The purchases are actually done on credit on the security of the Peruvian independent government. As the shipping is blockaded by Cochrane, all holders of silver were willing to disgorge their bullion to his fund. None of this wealth has been sent to the mint. Contrarily it is all embarked on his transports ‘to prevent it falling into the hands of the enemy’ he says. He then told us his own seamen had mutinied and protection of the bullion was in doubt.

There appears to be a pattern to his acts which San Martin suspects is not commensurate with furthering the progress of independence. As a result we (San Martin) wrote to him on 26th September asking him to show us your (O’Higgins’) instructions to him and to give back the bullion. He only says he does not have enough money to pay his own seamen. He acts like a pirate, taking what cargo he likes, ransoming crews and ships, etc.

Sat 31st May 1823

Lord Cochrane has published his reply to San Martin’s accusations in a public letter to the Peruvian people. He denies everything and gives explanations. The silver of the Peruvian merchants was willingly sent to the government of Chile.

He says San Martin never engaged to pay Cochrane’s seamen. It appeared he had intended to obtain possession of the crews on the cheap by withholding their wages whilst concurrently offering them employment in a Peruvian Navy he is forming.

Cochrane has all along acted with propriety. San Martin erred in appointing himself Protector of Peru. Cochrane had warned him about it and now the foreseeable difficulties had occurred and he was casting about for someone to blame. As regards the $100,000 taken in prize from Louisa, it was being smuggled and the Captain agreed I could take it. I paid my crews with it.

Sat 17th May 1823

Gazetta do Rio, 15th October – in a long article discussing the relationship between Portugal and Brazil, this paper concludes that there is no alternative to Brazilian independence. The Prince Regent is now 24 years old. On his birthday on 12th October the parliament asked him to accept the role of Constitutional Emperor of Brazil and he accepted. He is now Dom Pedro the First of the House of Braganza in Brazil. All army deserters who return to the colours within two months are pardoned. All decrees of the Cortes at Lisbon are null & void in this country. The Royal coat of arms and national flag are being changed to reflect the new state of things.

Sat 19th July 1823

Jose de San Martin has resigned the Protectorship of Peru. He says the Peruvians do not respect him. “I have given them independence and have in my possession the very flag that Pizarro hoisted over the enslaved Incas, but a soldier is a fearful thing to a fledgling state.”

He then left Valparaiso to cross the mountains to Rio where he says he will offer his services to the Prince Regent.

Friend of China , 23.3.43 edition

Sir Henry Ellis is in Brazil to negotiate the slave-trade question. The Brazilians say they need slave labour to harvest the sugar crop as the weather is too hot for Europeans. Britain has a high tax on foreign sugar as so much is produced with slave labour.

Sir Henry has been instructed to offer a British import duty reduction in return for freedom of the slaves.


Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. There is brief mention of Francisco de Miranda in the Europe chapter. He served with French forces in the Low Countries. He revealed Dumouriez’s treachery to the French commissioners and War Minister Bournonville. See an article datelined 9th July 1796.
  2. They lost $3+ millions in Moore’s attack – see the Prizetaking chapter.
  3. Trinidad is close to the South American coast and partakes in the coasting trade. British Admiralty interest is in its splendid port whilst British mercantile interest is in its smuggling possibilities. The Chinese emigrants are accompanied by an opium cargo provided by the Company, either for the emigrants own use or to test the new market. This emigration may be preparatory to Sir Home Popham’s invasion of South America on behalf of the King and Company – see below.
  4. The South American colonies of Spain are misruled and ripe for independence. Some grass-roots village priests are involved in promoting the process and both American and English traders are complicit – the South Americans pay silver for our manufactures, its irresistible.
  5. This is a Company project but known to the ministry. Baring’s deal with the Spanish King was political. It appears to have alerted the Company to the opportunity provided by anarchy in Spain. It is intended to secure a reasonable share of the South American silver supply to British use.
  6. None of the financial accounts of prize-taking add-up. Popham’s invasion of Buenos Aires and Montevideo is whimsical. He has taken the only capital ship from the Cape and diverted a frigate that was carrying specie to India (to pay H M’s troops) and used these warships and the gold for his invasion. The Company’s governors (at the Cape and St Helena) have assisted him. He got water and provisions at Rio on the way – that gets Portugal into trouble with her bigger neighbour, although Portugal is more or less a British colony too.

    Popham is realising the aims of the Patriotic Society at Lloyd’s, the insurance market, which promotes any profitable commercial initiative. The Society takes the view that England is now at war with Spain, Spain has wealth in South America, England should take that wealth to reduce Spanish effectiveness. Popham has written circulars to the Birmingham merchants reporting the opportunities of South American trade.
    He says the Patriotic Society holds out greater opportunities for British merchants than the London government. The ministry worries that every commander of a fleet or an army will adopt his own causes for war and central control of the war effort will be diminished. Effectively the merchants are taking over the conduct of the war and finding commanders to fight it on commercial considerations in accordance with Pitt’s ‘what is to be gained’ principle. Popham and Sidney Smith are empowered by Dundas to do more or less anything that promotes the British position.
    In fact Popham’s stimulation of commercial interest in Buenos Aires results in immense losses to British manufacturers – they send all sorts of manufactures there and little of it is appropriate for sale – but it is the beginning of a new market and lucrative for the naval force.

  7. This does not denote the arrival of help from Spain but the actions of a local Resistance against the British invasion.
  8. The same power, even over life and death, attributed to Sir Sidney Smith perhaps a very few others.
  9. See the Political Management and Economy chapters for more articles on the colourful Alexander Davison.
  10. The South Sea Company has already conceded an India Company right to license whaling in the Pacific. The reference to Lord Temple appears to refer to George Nugent-Temple-Grenville, 1st Marquess of Buckingham, a confidant of George III.
  11. The India Company seems to have anticipated this since underwriting Sir Home Popham’s expedition to Buenos Aires. The Company has an Agent appointed to the Portuguese Court at Rio. It sent Chinese artisans and an opium shipment to Trinidad in 1806. It appears keen to extend its commerce to South America. It will be recalled that it is New England silver from South and Central America that provides liquidity to the Company’s trade at Canton too.
  12. Indeed the Royalists shortly expel Miranda who adjourns to Trinidad
  13. British protection of Miranda is withdrawn after his arrival. He is imprisoned at Cadiz and remains incarcerated until his death in 1816 aged 66 years.
  14. Aury actually prevails over Hubbard.
  15. The aspect of this development that has significance in China trade is that New Englanders take a share of the silver proceeds of their South American and West Indian trade to Canton where it provides liquidity in that market – they bring silver for tea and silk; the Hong merchants pay it to the foreign smugglers for contraband; the smugglers in turn use it to buy Bills on Calcutta and London from the India Company which then returns it to the Hong merchants for tea for London.
  16. George Washington’s nephew
  17. Only the Chinese Emperor has a comparable (but longer) road linking Peking with his summer palace at Jehol.
  18. For details of Cochrane’s banishment from Britain see the Political Management and Europe chapters.
  19. Count de Cazes was then French Minister of the Interior.
  20. A common South American offer to the Spanish King is to endorse his monarchy under a Constitution if he will come to South America for the investiture.
  21. Readers will need to refer to the Europe chapter for details of the Holy Alliance’s plans for the restoration of monarchy in Europe. Briefly the Pope and the Kings agreed the invasion of southern Italy intending to overthrow the Constitution adopted by the Neapolitans, restore the King of the Two Sicilies and use this example to cow the Iberian countries into repudiating Constitutional government. The plan was frustrated by N M Rothschild shorting the shares of the Austrian central bank and depriving the Emperor of the funds needed for the invasion.
  22. José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva was the oldest of the Andrada brothers who held positions of authority in Brazil at this time. He is esteemed as the architect of independent Brazil and a national hero.
  23. The Chilean government under O’Higgins had achieved independence partly due to Cochrane’s effectiveness in excluding Spanish warships from South American waters – a strategy which had also worked for Buenos Aires and which Dom Pedro now wishes to adopt for Brazil, but to prevent independence rather than promote it.

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