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Wilkinson obtains Privileges from Spanish Officers.
leans, some time after, was informed of the obligation he lay under to the merchant who had impressed the government with such an idea of his importance and influence at home, waited on him, and, in concert with him, formed a plan for their future operations. In his interview with the governor, that he might not seem to derogate from the character given of him by appearing concerned in so trifling a business as a boat-load of tobacco, hams, and butter, he gave him to understand that the property belonged to many citizens of Kentucky, who, availing themselves of his return to the Atlantic States, by way of Orleans, wish. ed to make a trial of the temper of this government, as he, on his arrival, might inform his own what steps had been pursued under his eye, that adequate measures might be afterwards taken to procure satisfaction. He acknowledged with gratitude the attention and respect manifested by the governor towards himself in the favor shown to his agent; but at the same time mentioned that he would not wish the governor to expose himself to the anger of his court by refraining from seizing on the boat and cargo, as it was but a trifle, if such were the positive orders from court, and that he had not a power to relax them according to circumstances. Convinced by this discourse that the general rather wished for an opportunity of embroiling affairs than sought to avoid it, the gova ernor became more alarmed. For two or three years before, particularly since the arrival of the commissioners from Georgia, who had come to Natchez to claim that country, he had been fearful of an invasion at every annual rise of the waters, and the news of a few boats being seen was enough to alarm the whole province. He revolved in his mind what measures he ought to pursue (consistent with the orders he had from home to permit the free navigation of the river) in order to keep the Kentucky people quiet; and, in his succeeding interviews with Wilkinson, having procured more knowledge than he had hitherto acquired of their character, population, strength, and dispositions, he thought he could do nothing better than hold out a bait to Wilkinson to use his influence in restraining the people from an invasion of this province till he could give advice to his court, and require further instructions. This was the point to which the parties wished to bring him; and, being informed that in Kentucky two or three crops were on hand, for which, if an immediate vent was not to be found, the people could not be kept within bounds, he made Wilkinson the offer of a permission to import, on his own account, to New Orleans, free of duty, all the productions of Kentucky, thinking by this means to conciliate the good-will of the people, without yielding the point of navigation, as the commerce carried on would appear the effect of an indulgence to an individual, which could be withdrawn at pleasure. On consultation with his friends, who well knew what further concessions Wilkinson would extort from the fears of the Spaniards, by the promise of his good
Kentucky not made a State.
offices in preaching peace, harmony, and good understanding with this government, until arrangements were made between Spain and America, he was advised to insist that the governor should insure him a market for all the flour and tobacco he might send, as, in the event of an unfortunate shipment, he would be ruined whilst endeavoring to do a service to Louisiana. This was accepted. Flour was always wanted in New Orleans, and the king of Spain had given orders to purchase more tobacco for the supply of his manufactories at home than Louisiana at that time produced, and which was paid for at about $9.50 per cwt. In Kentucky it costs but $2, and the profit was immense. In consequence, the general had appointed his friend Daniel Clark his agent here, returned by way of Charleston in a vessel, with a particular permission to go to the United s, even at the very moment of Gardoqui's information ; and, on his arrival in Kentucky, bought up all the produce he could collect, which he shipped and disposed of as before mentioned ; and for some time all the trade for the Ohio was carried on in his name, a line from him sufficing to ensure the owner of the boat every privilege and protection he could desire.*
Whatever Wilkinson's views may have been, (and we should never forget that there was no treachery or treason against the United States in leaving the old colonies and forming an alliance with Spain at that period,-) such a reception as he had met with at New Orleans, was surely calculated to make him and his friends feel that by either intimidation, or alliance, the free trade they wished might be had from Spain, could the Act of Independence but be finally made binding by the consent of Congress, which was to be given before July 5th, 1788. It is not to be doubted that this agreement on the part of the Union was looked for as a matter of course almost;— Kentucky had spoken her wishes over and over again, and Virginia had acquiesced in them. When John Brown, therefore,- who in December 1787, had been sent as the first Western representative to Congress, brought the subject of admitting Kentucky as a Federal State before that body upon the 29th of February,t it was hoped the matter would soon be disposed of. But such was not the case; from February to May, from May to June, from June to July, the admission of the District was debated, and at length the whole subject, on the 3d of July, was referred to the new government about to be
* See American State Papers, xx. p. 707.-Clark's memoir is said by Wilkinson to be substantially correct. (Memoirs, ii. 110.)
+ Old Journals, iv. 811, 819, 828, 829, 830.
313 organized, and once more the Pioneers found themselves thwarted, and self-direction withheld.
On the 28th of July the sixth Convention met at Danville to proceed with the business of Convention-making, when news reached them* that their coming together was all to no purpose, as the Legislature of the Union had not given the necessary sanction to the act of Virginia. This news amazed and shocked them, and being accompanied or followed by intimations from Mr. Brown that Spain would make easy terms with the West, were the West once her own mistress, we surely cannot wonder that the leaders of the “Independence” party were disposed to act with decision and show a spirit of self-reliance. Wilkinson, on the one hand, could speak of his vast profits and the friendly temper of the southwestern rulers, while Brown wrote home such sentiments as these,
The eastern states would not, nor do I think they ever will assent to the admission of the district into the union, as an independent State, unless Vermont, or the province of Maine, is brought forward at the same time. The change which has taken place in the general government is made the ostensible objection to the measure; but, the jealousy of the growing importance of the western country, and an unwillingness to add a vote to the southern interest, are the real causes of opposition. The question which the district will now have to determine upon, will be-whether, or not, it will be more expedient to continue the connexion with the state of Virginia, or to declare their independence and proceed to frame a constitution of government?
In private conferences which I have had with Mr. Gardoqui, the Spanish minister, at this place, I have been assured by him in the most explicit terms, that if Kentucky will declare her independence, and empower some proper person to negotiate with him, that he has authority, and will engage to open the navigation of the Mississippi, for the exportation of their produce, on terms of mutual advantage. But that this privilege never can be extended to them while part of the
The difficulty of communicating news to the West may be judged of by the following extract from a letter by John Brown to Judge Muter.
“An answer to your favor of the 16th of March was together with several other letters, put into the hands of one of General Harmar's officers, who set out in May last for the Ohio, and who promised to forward them to the district; but I fear they have miscarried, as I was a few days ago informed that his orders had been countermanded, and that he had been sent to the garrison at West Point. Indeed I have found it almost impracticable to transmit a letter to Kentucky, as there is scarce any communication between this place and that country. A post is now established from this place to Fort Pitt, to set out once in two weeks, after the 20th instant; this will render the communication easy and certain.”-(Marshall, i. 304.)
A seventh Convention called.
United States, by reason of commercial treaties existing between that court and other powers of Europe.
As there is no reason to doubt the sincerity of this declaration, I have thought proper to communicate it to a few confidential friends in the district, with his permission, not doubting but that they will make a prudent use of the information-which is in part confirmed by despatches yesterday received by Congress, from Mr. Carmichal, our minister at that court, the contents of which I am not at liberiy to disclose.*
But even under the excitement produced by such prospects offered from abroad, and such treatment at the hands of their fellow-citizens, the members of the July Convention took no hasty or mischievous steps. Finding their own powers legally at an end in consequence of the course pursued by Congress, they determined to adjourn, and in doing so advised the calling of a seventh Convention to meet in the following November, and continue in existence until January, 1790, with full power
To take such measures for obtaining admission of the district, as a separate and independent member of the United States of America; and the navigation of the Mississippi as may appear most conducive to those important purposes: and also to form'a constitution of government for the district, and organize the same when they shall judge it necessary; or to do and accomplish whatsoever, on a consideration of the state of the district, may in their opinion promote its interests.t
These terms, although they contain nothing necessarily implying a separation from Virginia against her wish, or directly authorizing the coming Convention to treat with Spain, were still supposed to have been used for the purpose of enabling or even inviting that body to take any steps, however much against the letter of the law; and as Mr. Brown's letters showed that strong temptations were held out to the people of the District to declare themselves independent and then enter into negotiations with Spain, George Muter, Chief Justice of the District, on the 15th of October, published a letter in the Kentucky Gazette, calling attention to the fact that a separation without legal leave from the parent State would be treason against that State, and a violation of the Federal Constitution then just formed.
This letter and the efforts of the party who favored strict adhe
See Marshall's History of Kentucky, i. p. 305. + See Marshall's History of Kentucky, i. p. 290.
315 rence to legal proceedings, were not in vain. The elections took place, and on the 4th of November the Convention met; the contest at once began, but the two parties being happily balanced, both in and out of the Convention, the greatest caution was observed by both, and all excess prevented. An address to the people of the District was proposed by Wilkinson, the purpose of which was doubtless to procure instructions as to the contested points of illegal independence and negotiation with Spain, - but the plan of issuing such a paper was afterwards dropped, Congress was memorialized respecting the Mississippi, Virginia was again asked for an act of separation, and the Convention quietly adjourned until the 1st Monday of the following August.* It is not improbable that one tranquilizing influence was the contradiction, by members of Congress, of the report that the navigation of the Mississippi was to be relinquished by the United States. This contradiction had been authorized on the 16th of September.f It was during the autumn of this same year of trouble and intrigue, that there appeared again in Kentucky, John Connolly, formerly of Pittsburgh, of whom we last heard as organizing an expedition to attack the frontiers in 1781.1 Of his purposes and movements nothing of consequence can be added, we believe, to the following statement sent by Colonel Thomas Marshall, to General Washington, in the month of February, 1789.
About this time, (November 1788, arrived from Canada the famous Doctor (now Colonel) Connolly ; his ostensible business was to inquire after, and repossess himself of, some lands he formerly held at the Falls of Ohio ; || but I believe his real business was to sound the disposition of the leading men of this district respecting this Spanish business. He knew that both Colonel Muter and myself had given it all the opposition in Convention we were able to do, and before he left the district, paid us a visit, though neither of us had the honor of the least acquaintance with him.
He was introduced by Colonel John Campbell,s formerly a prisoner taken by the Indians, and confined in Canada, who previously informed us of the proposition he was about to make. He (Connolly) presently entered upon his subject, urged the great importance the navigation of
See Marshall, i. 288 to 341.-Marshall gives all the papers.—Butler 162 to 181-517 to 523.-Carey's Museum, April 1789, p. 331 to 333. + Secret Journals, iv. 449 to 454.
See Ante, p. 228.
His old co-purchaser of the land at the Fallo.