Esteban Rodriguez Miró y Sabater (1744 – June 4, 1795), also known as Esteban Miro and Estevan Miro, was a Spanish army officer and governor of the Spanish American provinces of Louisiana and Florida.
Rodríguez Miró was one of the most popular of the Spanish governors largely because of his prompt response to the Great New Orleans Fire (1788) which destroyed almost all of the city.
He was born in Reus (currently in the province of Tarragona, Catalonia), Spain. He joined the military in 1760 during the Seven Years' War. Around 1765, he was transferred to Mexico and rose to the rank of lieutenant. He returned to Spain in the 1770s and received military training before being sent to Louisiana in 1778.
Governor of Louisiana
In 1779 during the American Revolutionary War, he was a part of the forces commanded by Bernardo de Galvez in campaigns against the British in West Florida (which was at the time a British possession). Galvez appointed Rodríguez Miró acting Governor of Louisiana on January 20, 1782. He became proprietary governor in August 1785. After the war, Rodríguez Miró was a key figure in the boundary dispute with the U.S. over the northern boundary of West Florida. Under Spanish rule, the boundary had been 31° north latitude. In 1763, it came under British control at the end of the Seven Years War. In 1767, the northern boundary was moved to 32°28' north latitude (from the current location of Vicksburg, Mississippi east to the Chattahoochee River).
In 1783, Britain recognized the Spanish conquest of West Florida in the war, but did not specify the norther border. In the separate treaty with the U.S., Britain specified the southern boundary as 31 degrees north latitude. Spain claimed the British expansion of West Florida, while the U.S. held to the old boundary. Britain had also granted free navigation on the Mississippi River, even in places where Spain owned both sides of the river. In 1784, the Spanish government closed the lower Mississippi River to the Americans, causing significant fears of resentment among settlers in the western frontiers of Kentucky that depended on river trade. The settlers' anger was directed as much toward the U.S. government for not acting aggressively enough to protect their interests as it was against Spain. A significant faction within Kentucky considered becoming an independent republic rather than joining the U.S. One of the leaders of this faction was James Wilkinson, who met with Rodríguez Miró in 1787, declared his allegiance to Spain, and secretly acted as an agent for Spain.
Wilkinson's schemes to set up an independent nation friendly to Spain in the west did little except cause controversy. This resurfaced later in another form through Wilkinson's dealings with Aaron Burr. Rodríguez Miró fortified Nogales (present day Vicksburg) and the mouth of the Mississippi against the possibility of war with the U.S. After the Good Friday fire on March 21, 1788 destroyed almost all of the city, he arranged for tents for the residents, brought in food from warehouses, sent ships to Philadelphia for aid and lifted Spanish regulations restricting trade to the city. The city including the French Quarter was built to new fire codes with courtyards and thick walls. Among the new buildings built under his watch was the St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans.
Return to Spain
He surrendered governorship at the end of 1791 to return to Spain and serve in the Ministry of War. He served as Field Marshal from 1793-1795 in the war with the French Republic. He died on the battle front from natural causes.
In 1788, North Carolina formed a judicial district called the Mero District in its westernmost territory (the area presently around Nashville, Tennessee) named after Rodríguez Miró. Among Louisianians, Rodríguez Miró is chiefly remembered for having prevented the establishment of the Inquisition in the territory. The story as written by Charles Gayarré: "The reverend Capuchin, Antonio de Sedella, who had lately arrived in the province, wrote to the Governor to inform him that he, the holy father, had been appointed Commissary of the Inquisition; that in a letter of the 5th of December last, from the proper authority, this intelligence had been communicated to him, and that he had been requested to discharge his functions with the most exact fidelity and zeal, and in conformity with the royal will. Wherefore, after having made his investigations with the utmost secrecy and precaution, he notified Mirò that, in order to carry, as he was commanded, his instructions into perfect execution in all their parts, he might soon, at some late hour of the night, deem it necessary to require some guards to assist him in his operations. Not many hours had elapsed since the reception of this communication by the Governor, when night came, and the representative of the Holy Inquisition was quietly reposing in bed, when he was roused from his sleep by a heavy knocking. He started up, and, opening his door, saw standing before him an officer and a file of grenadiers. Thinking that they had come to obey his commands, in consequence of his letter to the Governor, he said: 'My friends, I thank you and his Excellency for the readiness of this compliance with my request. But I have now no use for your services, and you shall be warned in time when you are wanted. Retire then, with the blessing of God.' Great was the stupefaction of the Friar when he was told that he was under arrest. 'What!' exclaimed he, 'will you dare lay your hands on a Commissary of the Holy Inquisition?' — 'I dare obey orders,' replied the undaunted officer, and the Reverend Father Antonio de Sedella was instantly carried on board of a vessel, which sailed the next day for Cadiz."
This was an instance of the conflict within the central government at Madrid and also between it and the colonial governors: Miró's policy, approved by the Crown, had been to atrengthen Louisiana against the United States and other powers by encouraging settlement; this included requiring public practice of Catholicism, but ignoring private worship. The royal ministers had ordered an expansion of the Inquisition in response to the French Revolution.
Today, a street in New Orleans is still named in his honor. Once running from the Lower 9th Ward at St. Bernard Parish ("Downtown"), to Claiborne Ave. in the Fontainebleau neighborhood ("Uptown"), the street has now been "broken" in several places by subsequent developments, such as the Industrial Canal among others.
General James Wilkinson named the present Mero (sic) Street in Frankfort, Kentucky for Governor Miro. Source "Early Frankfort and Franklin County " by Willlard Rouse Jillson 1936 p. 62
- The Conquest of the Old Southwest
- Portrait by Andres Molinary
- History of Louisiana by Charles Gayarré
Bernardo de Gálvez
|Spanish Governor of Louisiana
Francisco Luis Hector de Carondelet
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