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1790-95. In 1787, General Wilkinson had made his first trip to Neo Orleans; in February, 1788, he returned to Kentucky, and the following year again visited the south, with which he continued to hold continued intercourse until 1791, when he began to take part in the Indian wars of the northwest. During this period, his operations were, to appearance, merely commercial, and the utmost reach of his plans, the formation of a kind of mercantile treaty with the Spanish provinces, by which the navigation of the Mississippi might be secured as a privilege, if not a right. We cannot enter into an examination of the mass of evidence brought forward in later times, (from 1807 to 1811,) to sustain the charge brought against Wilkinson of having received a pension from the Spanish government, in return for which he was to play the traitor to his country and effect a disunion of the States. In 1808, he was brought before a court of enquiry, and entirely acquitted of the charge; and again, in 1811, he was tried before a court martial, and every particle of evidence that could be found by his most inveterate enemies, without regard to legal formalities, which the accused dispensed with, was gathered to overwhelm him; but he was declared innocent by the court of every charge preferred against him. Nor does our own examination of the evidence lead us to doubt the correctness of the decision in his favor; the chief witnesses who criminated him were of the worst character, and most vindictive tempers,* and not a circumstance was fairly, clearly proved that could not be explained by the avowed mercantile relations which he succeeded in establishing with the Spanish governors at New Orleans. Those governors may, very probably, have hoped to see his business connections turn into political ones, but there is no cause to think they ever did so.
Depositions of George Mather and Wm. Wickoff, jr. in Wilkinson's Memoirs, ü, 103, 104.—Deposition of A. Ellicott, American State Papers, xxi. 89. (12th interrogation.)
+ The evidence in relation to Wilkinson is in American State Papers, Ir. 704 to 713, 936 to 939 ; xxi. 79 to 127; in report of the committee of the House of Representatires, Washington, 1811 ; in “ Proofs of the Corruption of General James Wilkinson, by Daniel Clark.” See also appendix to Wilkinson's Memoirs, ii.--also his argument to the Court Martial, Memoirs, ii. 41 to 268.
A letter in Dillon's Indiana, i. 412, from Wilkinson to Captain Buntin, is worthy of notice, as a proof in favor of Wilkinson's intentions in 1797.
For charges against him, see Memoirs, ii. 35 to 40.
The charges before the Court Martial and its sentence, are also in Niles' Register, i. 469 to 474.
1799-95. Sebastian's Intrigues.
427 Among the plans of the Spanish officials in Louisiana was one of encouraging emigration thither from the United States, and this had been fully disclosed to Wilkinson,* who furnished a list of probable emigrants, and interested himself generally in the matter. Among the persons recommended by him to Governor Miro, was Benjamin Sebastian, a lawyer of Kentucky, and in September, 1789, the Governor wrote to Sebastian relative to the proposed measure. In that letter, the wish of Spain to establish friendly relations with the Ohio settlers was named, and an offer of certain commercial privileges held out. The communication thus opened with Sebastian was probably continued; and when the Baron de Carondelet succeeded General Miro, he wrote to him in July, 1795, the following letter:
New Orleans, July 16, 1795. Sir :-The confidence reposed in you by my predecessor, Brigadier General Mito, and your former correspondence with him, have induced me to make a communication to you highly interesting to the country in which you live and to Louisiana.
His Majesty, being willing to open the navigation of the Mississippi to the people of the western country, and being also desirous to establish certain regulations, reciprocally beneficial to the commerce of both countries, has ordered me to proceed on the business, and to effect, in a way the most satisfactory to the people of the western country, his benevolent design.
I have, therefore, made this communication to you, in expectation that you will procure agents to be chosen and fully empowered by the people of your country to negotiate with Colonel Gayoso on the subject, at New Madrid, whom I shall send there in October next, properly authorized for that purpose, with directions to continue in that place, or its vicinity, until the arrival of your agents.
I am, by information, well acquainted with the character of some of the most respectable inhabitants of Kentucky, particulary of Innis, Nicholas, and Murray, to whom I wish you to communicate the purport of this address ; and, should you and those gentlemen think the object of it as important as I do, you will doubtless accede, without hesitation, to the proposition I have made of sending a delegation of your countrymen, sufficiently authorized to treat on a subject which so deeply involves the interest of both our countries. I remain, with every esteem and regard, sir, Your most obedient, humble servant,
THE BARON OF CARONDELET.
* Memoirs, ii. 112. + See his letter, American State Papers, xx, 706.
Power's Letter to Sebastian.
Innis, Nicholas and Murray were consulted, and the result was a visit by Sebastian, first to New Madrid, where he conferred with Gayoso, and then to New Orleans, where he met the Baron himself. Before, however, terms were agreed on, news came that the Federal Government had concluded a treaty with Spain, covering the whole subject, and the messenger, in 1796, returned to Kentucky.* During the summer of the next year, 1797, Thomas Power came to Kentucky from Louisiana, and sent Sebastian the following communication, which he in turn communicated to Innis and Nicholas, who sent through Sebastian a reply which we also give.
His excellency, the Baron of Carondelet, commander-in-chief and governor of his Catholic Majesty's provinces of West Florida, and Louisiana, having communications of importance, embracing the interests of said provinces, and at the same time deeply affecting those of Kentucky, and the western country in general, to make to its inhabitants through the medium of the influential characters in this country, and judging it, in the present uncertain and critical attitude of politics, highly imprudent and dangerous to lay them on paper, has expressly commissioned and authorized me to submit the following proposals to the consideration of Messrs. S., N., I., and M.,t and also of such other gentlemen, as may be pointed out by them, and to receive from them their sentiments and determination on the subject.
1. The above mentioned gentlemen are immediately to exert all their influence in impressing on the minds of the inhabitants of the western country, a conviction of the necessity of their withdrawing and separating themselves from the Federal Union, and forming an independent government, wholly unconnected with that of the Atlantic States. To prepare and dispose the people for such an event, it will be necessary that the most popular and eloquent writers in this State should, in welltimed publications, expose, in the most striking point of view, the inconveniences and disadvantages, that a longer connexion with, and dependence on the Atlantic States, must inevitably draw upon them, and the great and innumerable difficulties in which they will probably be entangled if they do not speedily recede from the Union: the benefits they will certainly reap from a secession, ought to be pointed out in the most forcible and powerful manner; and the danger of permitting the federal troops to take possession of the posts on the Mississippi ; and thus forming a cordon of fortified places around them, must be particularly expatiated upon. In consideration of gentlemen's devoting their time
* Deposition of Innis. (American State Papers, xx. 925 to 927.) + Sebastian, Nicholas, Innis, and Murray.
1790–95. Project of Spain to dismember the Union. 429 and talents to this object, his excellency the Baron of Carondelet, will appropriate the sum of one hundred thousand dollars to their use, which shall be paid in drafts on the royal treasury at New Orleans ; or if more convenient, shall be conveyed at the expense of his Catholic Majesty, into this country, and held at their disposal. Moreover, should such persons as shall be instrumental in promoting the views of his Catholic Majesty, hold any public employment, and in consequence of taking an active part in endeavoring to effect a secession, shall lose their employ. ment-a compensation equal at least to the emoluments of their office, shall be made to them, by his Catholic Majesty, let their efforts be crowned with success, or terminate in disappoinment.
2. Immediately after the declaration of independence, Fort Massac should be taken possession of by the troops of the new government, which shall be furnished by his Catholic Majesty without loss of time, together with twenty fieldpieces, with their carriages, and every necessary appendage, including powder, ball, &c., together with a number of small arms and ammunition, sufficient to equip the troops that it shall be judged expedient to raise. The whole to be transported at his expense, to the already named fort Massac. His Catholic Majesty will further supply the sum of one hundred thousand dollars for the raising and maintaining the said troops, which sum shall also be conveyed to and delivered at Fort Massac.
3. The northern boundary of his Catholic Majesty's provinces of East and West Florida shall be designated by a line commencing on the Mississippi at the mouth of the river Yazoo, extending due east to the River Confederation, or Tombigbee : provided that all his Catholic Majesty's forts, posts, and settlements on the Confederation or Tombigbee are included in the south side of such a line, but should any of his Majesty's forts, posts, or settlements fall to the north of said line, then the northern boundary of his Majesty's provinces of East and West Florida, shall be designated by a line beginning at the same point on the Mississippi, and drawn in such a direction as to meet the River Confederation, or Tombigbee, six miles to the north of the most northern Spanish post, fort, or settlement on the said river. All the lands north of that line shall be considered as constituting a part of the territory of the new government, saving that small tract of land at the Chickasaw Bluffs, on the eastern bank of the Mississippi ceded to his Majesty by the Chickasaw nation in a formal treaty concluded on the spot in the year 1795, between his excellency Senor Don Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, governor of Natchez, and Augleakabee and some other Chickasaw chiefs; which tract of land his Majesty reserves for himself. The eastern boundary of the Floridas shall be hereafter regulated.
4. His Catholic Majesty will, in case the Indian nations south of the Ohio, should declare war or commit hostilities against the new govern
430 Project of Spain to dismember the Union. 1790–93. ment, not only join and assist it in repelling its enemies, but if said government shall at any future time esteem it useful to reduce said Is dian nations, extend its dominion over them, and compel them to subot themselves to its constitution and laws, his Majesty will heartily coneur and co-operate with the new government in the most effectual manner in attaining this desirable end.
5. His Catholic Majesty will not either directly or indirectly interfere in the framning of the constitution or laws which the new government shall think fit to adopt ; nor will he at any time, by any means whatever, attempt to lessen the independence of the said government, or endeavor to acquire an undue influence in it, but will, in the mander that shall hereafter be stipulated by treaty, defend and support it in preserving its independence.
The preceding proposals, are the outlines of a provisional treaty, which his excellency the Baron of Carondelet is desirous of entering into with the inhabitants of the western country, the moment they shall be in a situation to treat for themselves. Should they not meet entirely with your approbation, and should you wish to make any alterations in, or additions to them, I shall on my return, if you think proper to communicate them to me, lay them before his excellency, who is animated with a sincere and ardent desire to foster this promising and rising infant country, and at the same time, promote and fortify the interests of his beneficent and royal master, in securing by a generous and disinterested conduct, the gratitude of a just, sensible, and enlightened people.
The important and unexpected events that have taken place in Europe since the ratification of the treaty concluded on the 27th of October, 1795, between his Catholic Majesty and the United States of America, having convulsed the general system of politics in that quarter of the globe, and wherever its influence is extended, causing a collision of interests between nations formerly living in the most perfect union and harmony, and directing the political views of some States towards objects the most remote from their former pursuits, but none being so com. pletely unhinged and disjointed as the cabinet of Spain, it may be confidently asserted, without incurring the reproach of presumption, that his Catholic Majesty will not carry the above-mentioned treaty into execution ; nevertheless the thorough knowledge I have of the disposition of the Spanish Government justifies me in saying that, so far from its being his Majesty's wish to exclude the inhabitants of this western country from the free navigation of the Mississippi, or withhold from them any of the benefits stipulated for them by the treaty, it is positively his intention, so soon as they shall put it in his power to treat with them, by declaring themselves independent of the Federal Goverment, and establishing one of their own, to grant them privileges far'more extensive, give them a decided preference over the Atlantic States in his commercial connexions with them, and place them in a situation in