Conspiracy and contraband: Trinidad and the Spanish Main, 1797-1802

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In February, 1797, the British forces captured the Spanish Island of Trinidad in the eastern Caribbean. The conquerors immediately set about to transform the Island into a centre for British contraband and conspiracy against the neighbouring Mainland provinces of the captaincy general of Caracas. The newly appointed Governor of Trinidad, Thomas Picton, zealously undertook his two- fold task, which was facilitated by the Island's strategic location at the mouth of the Orinoco waterway and vitiI'- easy reach of the coasts of Cumana . Trinidad's lucrative trade with the Spanish provinces was enhanced by the stranglehold that the British navy imposed on maritime commerce in the Caribbean. This left Main landers with little choice but to secretly conduct their business at Trinidad. The British Governor ' s conspiratorial efforts were boosted by the discovery in July 1797 of the Conspiracy of La Guaira which was aimed at the establishment of an Independent Venezuelan state. Its two leaders, Gual and Espafia, were collaborating with Picton in Trinidad by the following year. The Governor and the two fugitives agreed on a tentative plan to precipitate a British- assisted Independence movement on the Mainland during the penultimate months of 1799. The plan never got off the ground. Espana clandestinely returned to La Guaira to prepare the way for the invasion but was captured and executed . Picton's fervent appeals for the extension of British military and naval assistance to the revolutionaries were answered with warnings to de-escalate his conspiratorial efforts since Britain did not seriously contemplate a direct intervention in Spanish America. Picton's interest in Venezuelan Independence began to fade rapidly. Moreover, at this point, the Venezuela authorities succeeded in creating the impression that they were about to embark on a re conquest of Trinidad. As the plan to revolutionise Tierra Firma in late 1799 disintegrated Gual undertook a correspondence with his famous compatriot Fransisco de Miranda in London. Miranda at this time, had been unsuccessfully negotiating with the British Government for either assistance to liberate his home land or a passport to Trinidad. The Venezuelan authorities learnt of Gual's continuing correspondence with Miranda and they resolved to eliminate the threat he posed. His death in October, 1800, marked the end of the first serious attempt to create an Independent Venezuela.
Bibliography: p. 227-233.
Radhay, K. K. (1983). Conspiracy and contraband: Trinidad and the Spanish Main, 1797-1802 (Master's thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from doi:10.11575/PRISM/23327