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William S. Smith and Samuel G. Ogden Trials: 1806

Miranda Dines At The White House

In November 1805, Miranda arrived in New York City from England carrying a letter addressed to Rufus King. (King had been America's top diplomat in London from 1796 to 1803.) The correspondence, written by a member of Parliament, indicated that the British government was dropping its support for Miranda despite its war with Spain. King forwarded the letter to Secretary of State James Madison. After reviewing its contents, Madison and President Thomas Jefferson decided to meet with Miranda to get a better understanding of Britain's new policy concerning Spain's colonies. (At this time, Spanish-American relations were poor. The United States had designs on Spain's possessions in Texas and Florida, and Madrid was angered when France sold Louisiana to the Americans. For a short time in late 1805, it appeared that a war might start.)

The president and Madison met Miranda over dinner. What was said is still a matter of debate. Madison claimed that Miranda discussed his plans for revolution in "very general terms" and said that it would help if the United States declared war on Spain, but was rebuffed when told that America intended to remain at peace with that country. In contrast, Miranda said that Madison hinted "whatever might be done should be discreetly done" and that "although the [American] Government would not sanction, it would wink" at a military expedition launched from the United States. Publicly, the president said nothing, but privately he denied sanctioning any action by Miranda.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1637 to 1832William S. Smith and Samuel G. Ogden Trials: 1806 - Miranda Dines At The White House, Rebel Vessel Sails From New York, President's Role At Issue