“Perfectly Compatible Objects”: Mr. Pitt Contemplates Britain And South America

Part of the Nineteenth-Century Major Lives and Letters book series (19CMLL)


What may be the consequence to Spain of an hostile armament appearing off Mexico and Peru time only can discover; but there is every reason to suppose, from the present insurgent state of these Spanish settlements, that it would require but little address in a British Commander to excite a revolt” (“What” 3). The Times’ risky speculation in May 1790 adumbrates the beginning of British involvement with the “insurgent Spanish settlements” in the Romantic period. Earlier that year, Francisco de Miranda, known as “el Precursor” because he promoted the independence of Latin America long before Simon Bolívar appeared on the scene, had proposed to William Pitt that “England would assist [South America] to shake off the infamous oppression in which Spain keeps her” (“Proposal” 15: 111), and in exchange, England would obtain “the commercial intercourse to be formed between the English and natives upon the Grand Coasts of South America” (“Note” 15: 128). Miranda offered the vista of new markets in exchange for military assistance, no small incentive given the shift underway in the Atlantic economic system in the closing decades of the eighteenth century.1 Adam Smith, whom Miranda read, called attention to South America’s potential in The Wealth of Nations.


Romantic Period Monthly Review National Debt Military Assistance Commercial Advantage 
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  1. For a discussion of the continuities between capitalism in the Romantic period and contemporary global capital, see “Anthony Giddens and Will Hutton in Conversation,” Global Capitalism, ed. Will Hutton and Anthony Giddens (New York: The New Press, 2000), 1–51.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    See Robert Aguirre, Informal Empire: Mexico and Central America in Victorian Culture (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2005)Google Scholar
  3. Nigel Leask, Curiosity and the Aesthetics of Travel Writing, 1770–1840 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 243–315Google Scholar
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    For the most recent biography of Miranda, see Karen Racine, Francisco de Miranda: A Transatlantic Life in the Age of Revolution (Wilmington, DE: SR Books, 2003).Google Scholar
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    “The alliance of Britain and Spain in June 1808 forced Miranda to accept defeat on the political front. He now changed tactics. Discarding discretion, he embarked on a campaign of propaganda in open collaboration with James Mill. Mill was ready to risk his own prospects through the opportunity of publishing in the leading intellectual journal of the time, The Edinburgh Review, a medium known to be open to South American subjects. The result was two celebrated articles, in which Mill supplied the writing, structure, and knowledge of reader interests, and Miranda the specialist evidence.” See John Lynch, “Francisco de Miranda: The London Years,” Franscisco de Miranda, ed. Maher, 40; James Mill, “Emancipation of Spanish America,” Edinburgh Review 26 (1809): 277–311.Google Scholar
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    For the use of metaphorization in the U.S. context, see Peter Dorsey, “To ‘Corroborate Our Own Claims’: Public Positioning and the Slavery Metaphor in Revolutionary America,” American Quarterly Review 55: 3 (2003): 353–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    “Laprohibicion de libros, papeles erroneos y escandalosos, sobre la que se promulgaron diversas dispociciones: una real cédula de 18 de enero 1762, un decreto de Julio de 1763 y una segunda cédula de junio de 1768. Su función se vería limitada, desde luego, por el hecho de que la prohibición estuviera orientada a los objetos de desarraigar los errores y supersticions contra el dogma, al buen uso de la religión y a las opinions laxas que pervierten la moral Christiana” (Rementeira 212–13). See Carlos Díaz Rementeira, “Caracterización general de los delitos públicos por falsedad o escándalo en relación con la actividad inquisitorial en el siglo XVIII,” La Inquisición en Hispanoamérica, ed. Abelardo Levaggi (Buenos Aires: Ediciones Ciudad Argentina, 1997), 212–13.Google Scholar
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    Picton is otherwise remembered for his public torture of Luisa Calderon, a young, free mulatto, and the scandalous trial that ensued. See James Epstein, “Politics of Colonial Sensation: The Trial of Thomas Piston and the Cause of Louisa Calderon,” American Historical Review 112: 3 (2007): 712–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    See John A. Schutz, “Thomas Pownall’s Proposed Atlantic Federation,” The Hispanic American Historical Review 26: 2 (1946): 263–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    See David Geggus, “The Cost of Pitt’s Caribbean Campaigns, 1793–1798,” The Historical Journal 26 (1983): 699–706.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Larry H. Peer 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MassachusettsUSA

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