This diary, written by an Englishman and edited in English by a Venezuelan, will be of great value to those who are attempting to understand the period of Venezuelan history dominated by José Antonio Páez. Walter Dupouy begins his introduction with an account of Sir Robert and his family. He acquired fame as a painter of landscapes and battle scenes ; and in 1805, at the invitation of Czar Alexander I, he went to Russia to paint murals for the Admiralty. In the fall of 1808 he joined Sir John Moore in Lisbon and during the next three months made sketches of the Peninsular Campaign. After further travels he was appointed consul to Venezuela in 1825, and shortly before leaving England he began a diary in which he faithfully made entries until just before his death in 1842.

Sir Robert was shocked by what he first saw in Venezuela. The misery into which the country had fallen because of the 1812 earthquake, mass migrations caused by the war, and the sacrifice of almost half of its non-slave adult population gave rise to eases of immorality which he would have understood better if he had compared them with the most forsaken classes in Europe. Sir Robert admired both Bolívar and Páez, but he was critical of their moderation in dealing with those who fomented insurrections. He considered exile, the usual punishment, too weak and noted that it was enforced with such laxness that soon the offenders were back again, plotting and endangering public order. He preferred capital punishment.

In his background summary of the independence movement Dupouy explains that those in power had survived long and bloody wars. Their political opponents were also veterans who had suffered and sacrificed with them. Therefore, it was impossible to expect those in power to treat their opponents like criminals. The editor’s thesis is that Bolívar and Páez were inadvertent foci of antagonism, but not opponents, properly speaking. Party struggle commenced with an opposition between followers, not between leaders who admired and respected each other. Both Páez and Bolívar were founders of the republic, both esteemed as protectors. Hence paternalistic regimes were the first kind of government with which Venezuelans (and others) became acquainted after independence.

According to Dupouy, Sir Robert became “the most influential foreigner of his times in the young Republic of Venezuela.” The editor summarizes his achievements as consul (1825-1835) and as chargé (1835-1841). One who would not have endorsed this judgment of Ker Porter was John G. A. Williamson, a crusty Presbyterian from North Carolina who arrived in 1826 (a year after Sir Robert) to serve as consul for the United States. Williamson did not like his English colleague, and, as it turned out, Sir Robert returned the sentiment. As he wrote on April 19, 1836: “A sort of ceremony at the Casa de Gob° on the anniversary of this day of 1810. . .. At 5 or rather near 7, the Vice Presnt gave a dinner in honor thereof. Plenty of all sorts, both on and round the table some 30 persons public functionaries & Some speechifying the friendly nations were drunk—and Mr. Williamson, who is very tenacious of his seniority as Chargé d’Affaires, wanted to decline returning thanks—but I said as the oldest in Dipc rank he must. He spoke in English instead of Spanish—and returned thanks in the name of all the F. Nations. In fact he bitched the business, even in his mother tongue.”