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The Conspirator


"It is beyond question that there exists in this country an infinite number of adventurers, without property, full of ambition, and ready to unite at once under the standard of a revolution which promises to better their lot."


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MR. JEFFERSON was in a good deal of a quandary in the spring of 1805. "We want nothing of hers [Spain] and we want no other nation to possess what is hers," he was writing in April, to Mr. Bowdoin, his newly selected Minister to Madrid, "but she has met our advances with jealousy, secret malice and ill faith. Our patience. . . is now on its last trial, and the issue of what is now depending between us will decide whether our relations with her are to be sincerely friendly or permanently hostile." Of course, Mr. Jefferson did not really mean that— indeed, at the time, he particularly wanted something of Spain's, namely the Floridas-but he thought that he meant it.

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It all went back to the Treaty of Paris, in 1763, under the terms of which France had lost her American colonial empire, Canada to England, and Louisiana to Spain-the latter really by secret cession the year before. In place of the old French peril, there was now, to the Colonies, the threat of a new Spanish danger, to the southern Colonies and

to their opening Back Countries. For men were seeping into the wildernesses; Daniel Boone and other buckskin-clad adventurers were exploring the unknown lands beyond the mountains; in 1775, Richard Henderson was purchasing the "dark and bloody ground" of Kentucky from the Cherokees; in 1780, John Donelson and James Robertson were establishing their Tennessee colony on the Cumberland, just a cluster of blockhouses which were to be known as Nashville. And for these settlers, for these growing communities, for the carriage and profitable disposal of their corn, and furs, and produce, the free navigation of the Mississippi and an outlet at its mouth were a necessity.

But the secret commercial diplomacy of France and Spain-under their Bourbon kings-saw these matters in a different light. At the close of the Revolutionary War, whatever their official attitude might have been during the conflict, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs at Paris and Madrid were intriguing with England to prevent the recognition of American independence; and when this failed, their efforts became concentrated on a restriction of the new republic within the boundaries of the Appalachian Mountains. Kentucky and Tennessee must be destroyed, or else terrorized into seeking a Spanish allegiance. The task was to be accomplished by means of secret agents, well furnished with funds, by means of a constant stirring up of Indian massacres and by closing the Mississippi to the inhabitants of those precarious territories. It might mean nothing to New England, but to Kentucky and Tennessee, to Virginia and North Carolina, the Span

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