When the Venezuelan creole Francisco de Miranda undertook a journey across the United States in 1783, he was no longer an inexperienced youth but a man of thirty-three who, after studying philosophy at the University of Caracas, had gone to Madrid. He had enlisted there as captain in the Spanish army, fought against the Moors in Africa, and participated in the struggle for the independence of the United States as staff officer of the Spanish expeditionary corps in the Antilles and the Gulf of Mexico. Above all, he was a man who had just made the most important decision of his life: to rebel against the king of Spain and devote himself to the cause of Hispanic American freedom.

The present book, excellently edited, contains the English translation (by Judson P. Wood) of the diary which Miranda wrote during his tour of the United States betweeen June 1783 and December 1784 and a later account of his trip to England about February 1785.

With an eagerness for information characteristic of the eighteenth-century man, Miranda, who was a keen observer, surveyed the spectacle presented by the young republic seeking direction and stability as an independent nation. The creole in love with liberty was witnessing a practical experiment in constructing a democracy. This word appears frequently in the diary as one of its central concepts, and it was a happy inspiration of the editors to entitle the book The New Democracy in America. Without forgetting for a moment the differences of temperament and tradition between Spaniards and Anglo-Saxons, Miranda knew how to benefit from models which seemed useful to him in the North American system. But he also noted the negative aspects, since it was essential for him to understand the whole reality.

The initial chapter, entitled “The Man, the Country [the United States], and the Diary,” provides a good summary of Miranda’s life, although it contains errors of detail. For example, it treats as separate institutions “the Academy [sic] of Santa Rosa and the University of Caracas” (xviii) which were only one when Miranda studied there. At another point the editor states that “in 1782 he was actually in correspondence with dissatisfied Creoles in Venezuela” (xx) without indicating the serious reservations which Alfred Boulton has suggested concerning the authenticity of the so-called Mantuanos Letter, on which he bases that information. But on the whole the picture of Miranda which appears in this chapter is valid, as is also the description of politico-social conditions in the United States, which Miranda toured from South Carolina to New Hampshire; and the importance of that part of the diary dealing with the United States is also duly clarified. The notes, which as far as possible identify persons, places, or historical circumstances, are highly useful in spite of a few small errors (Cape Francés is in Haiti, not Cuba [p. 167]) and occasional ingenuousness, such as that of note 20 on page 114, dealing with the word “coffee.” But these are details of minor importance in view of the positive qualities of the work.

This English edition of Miranda’s diary (based on the text published by Professor Robertson [New York, 1928], and in the Archivo del General Miranda, vol. I [Caracas, 1929]) clearly fulfills a double function To the Hispanic American student of the life and works of the Precursor it gives a basis for appreciating the importance of his first visit to the United States. To the English-speaking reader— not only the historian but the layman as well—it provides a lively, colorful picture of the first years of the young republic, as seen by an observer of exceptionally human quality.