Page images

ish decree was a vital issue, then, and at all times in the future.


Governor Mirò, of Spanish Louisiana, was an enterprising gentleman who found himself, upon his assumption of office, in 1785, entirely in accord with these projects, and, while conducting an urbane correspondence concerning their misfortunes with the settlers of Kentucky and Tennessee, looked around him for suitable underlings.

And so he naturally turned, on the one hand, to Alexander McGillivray, the dreaded "White Leader" of contemporary Indian history; that astonishingly polished and educated son of a Scotch trader and a Creek squaw-herself half French-a Tory during the War, and now the implacable enemy of all American colonists, and the Chief, for many years already, of the ferocious Creeks. At a cost to Governor Mirò of some fifty-five thousand dollars a year, the Leader and his six thousand odd warriors made a massacring ground of Tennessee until Mr. Robertson and Mr. Sevier were almost ready to place themselves under Spanish protection, since North Carolina would do nothing for them. And, on the other hand, for assistance in more delicate tasks, the Governor of Spanish Louisiana turned to "General" James Wilkinson, of the American army, who, in 1787-but the fact was not discovered, unfortunately for a great many people, until long years later-took the oath of allegiance to Spain, and became secret agent Number Thirteen on the records of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at Madrid.

One has already seen this gentleman for a moment, volunteering for Colonel Arnold's Quebec expedition; one has seen him again, an old army friend of the Vice President, appointed Governor of Upper American Louisiana by Mr. Jefferson, in 1805. One must now bring a more detailed observation to bear upon the incidents of his distinguished career. A Marylander-the State was not responsible for the accident of his birth within her confineshe had, after Quebec, found himself upon the staff of General Gates, from whom he brought to Congress the news of Saratoga, together with a recommendation for a brigadier generalship which he had obtained by the assumption on his part of a gallant act performed by another officer. Implicated, however, in General Conway's cabal against General Washington his imposture was discovered, and he resigned the commission, being permitted to serve in the clothier's department. In 1784, he had settled in Kentucky, near the Falls of the Ohio; in 1786, he was loud in his disparagement of General George Rogers Clark-who had just been defeated by the Ohio Indians and took a vicious part in the villification of that officer which finally resulted in the latter's censure and downfall.

Such was the previous history of the personage who, in 1787, became the paid agent of Governor Mirò on whose behalf the final slanders against General Clark may have been advanced, since the General was a famous Indian fighter, and Governor Mirò was well disposed towards Indians. At all events, "General" Wilkinson enjoyed an exclusive trading privilege at New Orleans; through his


representatives-Philip Nolan, Thomas Power and others he received payments from the Spanish authorities by what was afterwards to be described as the mule load; in 1788, he was openly proposing the separation of Kentucky in favor of Spain. And in 1791, having been reinstated in the army as a lieutenant colonel, he served under Generals St. Clair and Wayne, and, although involved in the instigation of mutiny and other scabrous undertakings, was made a brigadier general in 1792, and placed in command of the American army upon the death of General Wayne in 1796-for he had a way of concealing his duplicities and evading suspicion. But now the Spaniards had opened the Mississippi again temporarily, and the tangle of plots was for a while unravelled.

Evidently a dangerous gentleman, this General Wilkinson-a handsome, intelligent, plausible and somewhat verbose person, consumed with avarice, steeped in jealousy and malice, treacherous and crafty—against whom, in those days, little was known in America except that he had once committed a dishonorable act, for which he had been punished, and that he had been the object of certain rumors concerning his service under General Wayne, in spite of which he had been promoted. But a brave soldier, a leader, a good enough brigadier general. Yes.


The boon of the reopened Mississippi-and of a duty free warehouse at New Orleans for three years at least had been granted, in 1795, through a

treaty made with the United States by another astonishing personage, Don Manuel Godoy, Prince of the Peace-a title earned as a result of his termination of the French war-and Prime Minister of Spain under that long suffering monarch, Don Carlos IV.

A gentleman of the royal guard, of no particular extraction, he had, in 1792, at the age of twenty-five, reached his exalted station through an assiduous cultivation of the shameless favors of Maria Luisa of Parma, Queen of Spain-a lady devoid of virtue, whose deportment was the scandal of Europe. Unscrupulous and profligate in private life, a symbol of vice and corruption, and grown wealthy beyond words, the Prince Godoy was nevertheless an enlightened and courageous Minister, a devoted guardian of his country's interests. And if he had made his compact with America to counteract Mr. Jay's treaty with England, the document brought down upon him the wrath of France, in the person of Mr. de Talleyrand, Foreign Minister to the Directoire, which was another way of saying General Bonaparte. And Mr. de Talleyrand, for whom intrigue was as the breath of life, disliked America which he considered hopelessly Anglophile, and dreamed of reestablishing the lost French colonial empire upon its shores.

And first, he must have Louisiana again; Spain must be teased, bullied, coerced. She must be, and was, forced into the war with England; her independence was threatened; her ports were filled with French privateers attacking American commerce, at the same time that Mr. de Talleyrand was in

[ocr errors]
[graphic][merged small]
« EelmineJätka »