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The Winning of the West, Volume Three by Theodore Roosevelt

Part 2 out of 5

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Indians, not far from Whitley's house; two of the men were killed. Mrs.
McClure got away at first, and ran two hundred yards, taking her four
children with her; in the gloom they would all have escaped had not the
smallest child kept crying. This led the Indians to them. Three of the
children were tomahawked at once; next morning the fourth shared the
same fate. The mother was forced to cook breakfast for her captors at
the fire before which the scalps were drying. She was then placed on a
half-broken horse and led off with them. When word of the disaster was
brought to Whitley's, he was not at home, but his wife, a worthy
helpmeet, immediately sent for him, and meanwhile sent word to his
company. On his return he was able to take the trail at once with
twenty-one riflemen, as true as steel. Following hard, but with stealth
equal to their own, he overtook the Indians at sundown on the second
day, and fell on them in their camp. Most of them escaped through the
thick forest, but he killed two, rescued six prisoners, and captured
sixteen horses and much plunder.

Ten days after this another party of immigrants, led by a man named
Moore, were attacked on the Wilderness Road and nine persons killed.
Whitley raised thirty of his horse-riflemen, and, guessing from the
movements of the Indians that they were following the war trace
northward, he marched with all speed to reach it at some point ahead of
them, and succeeded. Finding they had not passed he turned and went
south, and in a thick canebrake met his foes face to face. The whites
were spread out in line, while the Indians, twenty in number, came on in
single file, all on horseback. The cane was so dense that the two
parties were not ten steps apart when they saw one another. At the first
fire the Indians, taken utterly unaware, broke and fled, leaving eight
of their number dead; and the victors also took twenty-eight horses.
[Footnote: Draper MSS. Whitley's MSS. Narrative, apparently dictated
some time after the events described. It differs somewhat from the
printed account in Collins.]

Death of Black Wolf and Col. Christian

In the following spring another noted Indian fighter, less lucky than
Whitley, was killed while leading one of these scouting parties. Early
in 1786, the Indians began to commit and Col. numerous depredations in
Kentucky, and the alarm and anger of the inhabitants became great.
[Footnote: Draper MSS. Clark Papers, _passim_ for 1786. Wm. Finney to G.
R. Clark, March 24 and 26, 1786. Also Wm. Croghan to G. R. Clark, Nov.
3, and Nov. 16, 1785.] In April, a large party of savages under a chief
named Black Wolf, made a raid along Beargrass. Col. William Christian, a
very gallant and honorable man, was in command of the neighboring
militia. At once, as was his wont, he raised a band of twenty men, and
followed the plunderers across the Ohio. Riding well in advance of his
followers, with but three men in company with him, he overtook the three
rearmost Indians, among whom was Black Wolf. The struggle was momentary
but bloody. All three Indians were killed, but Colonel Christian and one
of his captains were also slain. [Footnote: State Department MSS. Papers
Continental Congress. Sam McDowell to Governor of Virginia, April 18,
1786. John May to _Do._, April 19, 1786. Clark MSS. Bradford's Notes on
Kentucky. John Clark to Johnathan Clark, April 21, 1786.]

Anger of the Kentuckians.

The Kentuckians were by this time thoroughly roused, and were bent on
making a retaliatory expedition in force. They felt that the efforts
made by Congress to preserve peace by treaties, at which the Indians
were loaded with presents, merely resulted in making them think that the
whites were afraid of them, and that if they wished gifts all they had
to do was to go to war. [Footnote: Draper MSS. Jon. Clark Papers. John
Clark to Johnathan Clark, March 29, 1786. Also, G. R. Clark to J. Clark,
April 20, 1788.] The only effective way to deal with the Indians was to
strike them in their own country, not to try to parry the strokes they
themselves dealt. Clark, who knew the savages well, scoffed at the idea
that a vigorous blow, driven well home, would rouse them to desperation;
he realized that, formidable though they were in actual battle, and
still more in plundering raid, they were not of the temper to hazard all
on the fate of war, or to stand heavy punishment, and that they would
yield very quickly, when once they were convinced that unless they did
so they and their families would perish by famine or the
sword. [Footnote: State Department MSS., No. 56, p. 282. G. R. Clark to
R. H. Lee.] At this time he estimated that some fifteen hundred warriors
were on the war-path and that they were likely to be joined by many

Anarchy on the Wabash.

The condition of affairs at the French towns of the Illinois and Wabash
afforded another strong reason for war, or at least for decided measures
of some kind. Almost absolute anarchy reigned in these towns. The French
inhabitants had become profoundly discontented with the United States
Government. This was natural, for they were neither kept in order nor
protected, in spite of their petitions to Congress that some stable
government might be established. [Footnote: State Department MSS., No.
30, p. 453, Dec. 8, 1784. Also p. 443, Nov. 10, 1784. Draper MSS. J.
Edgar to G. R. Clark, Oct. 23, 1786.] The quarrels between the French
and the intruding American settlers had very nearly reached the point of
a race war; and the Americans were further menaced by the Indians. These
latter were on fairly good terms with the French, many of whom had
intermarried with them, and lived as they did; although the French
families of the better class were numerous, and had attained to what was
for the frontier a high standard of comfort and refinement.

Quarrels between French and Americans.

The French complained with reason of the lawless and violent character
of many of the American new-comers, and also of the fact that already
speculators were trying by fraud and foul means to purchase large tracts
of land, not for settlement, but to hold until it should rise in value.
On the other hand, the Americans complained no less bitterly of the
French, as a fickle, treacherous, undisciplined race, in close alliance
with the Indians, and needing to be ruled with a rod of iron. [Footnote:
State Dept. MSS., No. 56. J. Edgar to G. R. Clark, Nov. 7, 1785. Draper
MSS. Petition of Americans of Vincennes to Congress, June I, 1786.] It
is impossible to reconcile the accounts the two parties gave of one
another's deeds; doubtless neither side was guiltless of grave
wrongdoing. So great was Clark's reputation for probity and leadership
that both sides wrote him urgently, requesting that he would come to
them and relieve their distress. [Footnote: Draper MSS. Petition to G. R.
Clark from Inhabitants of Vincennes, March 16, 1786.] One of the most
fruitful sources of broils and quarrels was the liquor trade with the
Indians. The rougher among the new-comers embarked eagerly in this
harmful and disreputable business, and the low-class French followed
their example. The commandant, Monsieur J. M. P. Legrace, and the Creole
court forbade this trade; a decision which was just and righteous, but
excited much indignation, as the other inhabitants believed that the
members of the court themselves followed it in secret. [Footnote: Do.,
John Filson; MS. Journey of Two Voyages, etc.]

In 1786 the ravages of the Indians grew so serious, and the losses of
the Americans near Vincennes became so great, that they abandoned their
outlying farms, and came into the town. [Footnote: Do., Moses Henry to G.
R. Clark, June 7, 1786.] Vincennes then consisted of upwards of three
hundred houses. The Americans numbered some sixty families, and had
built an American quarter, with a strong blockhouse. They only ventured
out to till their cornfields in bodies of armed men, while the French
worked their lands singly and unarmed.

Indians Attack Americans.

The Indians came freely into the French quarter of the town, and even
sold to the inhabitants plunder taken from the Americans; and when
complaint of this was made to the Creole magistrates, they paid no heed.
One of the men who suffered at the hands of the savages was a wandering
schoolmaster, named John Filson, [Footnote: _Do_., John Small to G. R.
Clark, June 23, 1786.] the first historian of Kentucky, and the man who
took down, and put into his own quaint and absurdly stilted English,
Boone's so-called "autobiography." Filson, having drifted west, had
travelled up and down the Ohio and Wabash by canoe and boat. He was much
struck with the abundance of game of all kinds which he saw on the
northwestern side of the Ohio, and especially by the herds of buffaloes
which lay on the sand-bars; his party lived on the flesh of bears, deer,
wild turkeys, coons, and water-turtles. In 1785 the Indians whom he met
seemed friendly; but on June 2, 1786, while on the Wabash, his canoe was
attacked by the savages, and two of his men were slain. He himself
escaped with difficulty, and reached Vincennes after an exhausting
journey, but having kept possession of his "two small trunks."
[Footnote: _Do_., Filson's Journal.]

Two or three weeks after this misadventure of the unlucky historian, a
party of twenty-five Americans, under a captain named Daniel
Sullivan, [Footnote: _Do_., Daniel Sullivan to G. R. Clark, June 23,
1786. Small's letter says June 21st.] were attacked while working in
their cornfields at Vincennes. [Footnote: State Dept. MSS. Papers
Continental Congress, No. 150, vol. ii., Letter of J. M. P. Legrace, "Au
General George Roge Clarck a la Chate" (at the Falls-Louisville), July
22, 1786.] They rallied and drove back the Indians, but two of their
number were wounded. One of the wounded fell for a moment into the hands
of the Indians and was scalped; and though he afterwards recovered, his
companions at the time expected him to die. They marched back to
Vincennes in furious anger, and finding an Indian in the house of a
Frenchman, they seized and dragged him to their block-house, where the
wife of the scalped man, whose name was Donelly, shot and scalped him.

French Threaten Americans.

This greatly exasperated the French, who kept a guard over the other
Indians who were in town, and next day sent them to the woods. Then
their head men, magistrates, and officers of the militia, summoned the
Americans before a council, and ordered all who had not regular
passports from the local court to leave at once, "bag and baggage." This
created the utmost consternation among the Americans, whom the French
outnumbered five to one, while the savages certainly would have
destroyed them had they tried to go back to Kentucky. Their leaders
again wrote urgent appeals for help to Clark, asking that a general
guard might be sent them if only to take them out of the country. Filson
had already gone overland to Louisville and told the authorities of the
straits of their brethren at Vincennes, and immediately an expedition
was sent to their relief under Captains Hardin and Patton.

Indians Attempt to Destroy Americans.

Meanwhile, on July 15th, a large band of several hundred Indians,
bearing red and white flags, came down the river in forty-seven canoes
to attack the Americans at Vincennes, sending word to the French that if
they remained neutral they would not be molested. The French sent envoys
to dissuade them from their purpose, but the war chiefs and sachems
answered that the red people were at last united in opposition to "the
men wearing hats," and gave a belt of black wampum to the wavering
Piankeshaws, warning them that all Indians who refused to join against
the whites would thenceforth be treated as foes. However, their deeds by
no means corresponded with their threats. Next day they assailed the
American block-house or stockaded fort, but found they could make no
impression and drew off. They burned a few outlying cabins and
slaughtered many head of cattle, belonging both to the Americans and the
French; and then, seeing the French under arms, held further parley with
them, and retreated, to the relief of all the inhabitants.

A Successful Skirmish.

At the same time the Kentuckians, under Hardin and Patton, stumbled by
accident on a party of Indians, some of whom were friendly Piankeshaws
and some hostile Miamis. They attacked them without making any
discrimination between friend and foe, killed six, wounded seven, and
drove off the remainder. But they themselves lost one man killed and
four wounded, including Hardin, and fell back to Louisville without
doing anything more. [Footnote: Letter of Legrace and Filson's Journal.
The two contradict one another as to which side was to blame. Legrace
blames the Americans heavily for wronging both the French and the
Indians; and condemns in the strongest terms, and probably with justice,
many of their number, and especially Sullivan. He speaks, however, in
high terms of Henry and Small; and both of these, in their letters
referred to above, paint the conduct of the French and Indians in very
dark colors, throwing the blame on them. Legrace is certainly
disingenuous in suppressing all mention of the wrongs done to the
Americans. For Filson's career and death in the woods, see the excellent
Life of Filson, by Durrett, in the Filson club publications.]

Clark's Expedition.

These troubles on the Wabash merely hardened the determination of the
Kentuckians no longer to wait until the Federal Government acted. With
the approval of Governor Patrick Henry, they took the initiative
themselves. Early in August the field officers of the district of
Kentucky met at Harrodsburg, Benjamin Logan presiding, and resolved on
an expedition, to be commanded by Clark, against the hostile Indians on
the Wabash. Half of the militia of the district were to go; the men were
to assemble, on foot or on horseback, as they pleased, at Clarksville on
September 10th. [Footnote: Draper MSS. Minutes of meetings of the
officers of the district of Kentucky, Aug. 2, 1786. State Dept. MSS.,
No. 150, vol. ii. Letter of P. Henry, May 16, 1786.] Besides
pack-horses, salt, flour, powder, and lead were impressed, [Footnote:
Draper MSS. J. Cox to George Rogers Clark, Aug. 8, 1786.] not always in
strict compliance with law, for some of the officers impressed
quantities of spirituous liquors also. [Footnote: State Dept. MSS.,
Madison papers. Letter of Caleb Wallace Nov. 20,1786.] The troops
themselves however came in slowly. [Footnote: State Dept. MSS., Papers
Continental Congress. No. 150, vol. ii. Letter of Major Wm. North, Sept.
15, 1786.] Late in September when twelve hundred men had been gathered,
Clark moved forward. But he was no longer the man he had been. He failed
to get any hold on his army. His followers, on their side, displayed all
that unruly fickleness which made the militia of the Revolutionary
period a weapon which might at times be put to good use in the absence
of any other, but which was really trusted only by men whose military
judgment was as fatuous as Jefferson's.

Clark's Failure.

After reaching Vincennes the troops became mutinous, and at last flatly
refused longer to obey orders, and marched home as a disorderly mob, to
the disgrace of themselves and their leader. Nevertheless the expedition
had really accomplished something, for it overawed the Wabash and
Illinois Indians, and effectively put a stop to any active expressions
of disloyalty or disaffection on the part of the French. Clark sent
officers to the Illinois towns, and established a garrison of one
hundred and fifty men at Vincennes, [Footnote: _Do_. Virginia State
Papers. G. R. Clark to Patrick Henry. Draper MSS., Proceedings of
Committee of Kentucky Convention, Dec. 19, 1786.] besides seizing the
goods of a Spanish merchant in retaliation for wrongs committed on
American merchants by the Spaniards.

Logan's Expedition.

This failure was in small part offset by a successful expedition led by
Logan at the same time against the Shawnee towns. [Footnote: State
Department MSS., Virginia State Papers, Logan to Patrick Henry, December
17, 1786.] On October 5th, he attacked them with seven hundred and
ninety men. There was little or no resistance, most of the warriors
having gone to oppose Clark. Logan took ten scalps and thirty-two
prisoners, burned two hundred cabins and quantities of corn, and
returned in triumph after a fortnight's absence. One deed of infamy
sullied his success. Among his colonels was the scoundrel McGarry, who,
in cold blood, murdered the old Shawnee chief, Molunthee, several hours
after he had been captured; the shame of the barbarous deed being
aggravated by the fact that the old chief had always been friendly to
the Americans. [Footnote: Draper MSS., Caleb Wallace to Wm. Fleming,
October 23, 1786. State Department MSS., No. 150, vol. ii., Harmar's
Letter, November 15, 1786.] Other murders would probably have followed,
had it not been for the prompt and honorable action of Colonels Robert
Patterson and Robert Trotter, who ordered their men to shoot down any
one who molested another prisoner. McGarry then threatened them, and
they in return demanded that he be court-martialled for murder.
[Footnote: Virginia State Papers, vol. iv., p. 212.] Logan, to his
discredit, refused the court-martial, for fear of creating further
trouble. The bane of the frontier military organization was the
helplessness of the elected commanders, their dependence on their
followers, and the inability of the decent men to punish the atrocious
misdeeds of their associates.

These expeditions were followed by others on a smaller scale, but of
like character. They did enough damage to provoke, but not to overawe,
the Indians. With the spring of 1787, the ravages began on an enlarged
scale, with all their dreadful accompaniments of rapine, murder, and
torture. All along the Ohio frontier, from Pennsylvania to Kentucky, the
settlers were harried; and in some places they abandoned their clearings
and hamlets, so that the frontier shrank back. [Footnote: Durret MSS.,
Daniel Dawson to John Campbell, Pittsburg, June 17, 1787. Virginia State
Papers, vol. iv., p. 419.] Logan, Kenton, and many other leaders headed
counter expeditions, and now and then broke up a war party or destroyed
an Indian town; [Footnote: Draper, MSS., T. Brown to T. Preston,
Danville, June 13, 1787. Virginia State Papers, vol. iv., pp. 254, 287,
etc.] but nothing decisive was accomplished, and Virginia paralyzed the
efforts of the Kentuckians and waked them to anger, by forbidding them
to follow the Indian parties beyond the frontier. [Footnote: Virginia
State Papers, vol. iv., p. 344.]

The most important stroke given to the hostile Indians in 1787 was dealt
by the Cumberland people. During the preceding three or four years, some
scores of the settlers on the Cumberland had been slain by small
predatory parties of Indians, mostly Cherokees and Creeks. No large war
band attacked the settlements; but no hunter, surveyor, or traveller, no
wood-chopper or farmer, no woman alone in the cabin with her children,
could ever feel safe from attack. Now and then a savage was killed in
such an attack, or in a skirmish with some body of scouts; but nothing
effectual could be thus accomplished.

Ravages in Cumberland Country.

The most dangerous marauders were some Creek and Cherokee warriors who
had built a town on the Coldwater, a tributary of the Tennessee near the
Muscle Shoals, within easy striking distance of the Cumberland
settlements. This town was a favorite resort of French traders from the
Illinois and Wabash, who came up the Tennessee in bateaux. They provided
the Indians with guns and ammunition, and in return often received goods
plundered from the Americans; and they at least indirectly and in some
cases directly encouraged the savages in their warfare against the
settlers. [Footnote: Robertson MSS., Robertson to some French man of
note in Illinois, June, 1787. This is apparently a copy, probably by
Robertson's wife, of the original letter. In Robertson's own original
letters, the spelling and handwriting are as rough as they are

Robertson's Expedition against the Coldwater Town.

Early in June, Robertson gathered one hundred and thirty men and marched
against the Coldwater town, with two Chickasaws as guides. Another small
party started at the same time by water, but fell into an ambush, and
then came back. Robertson and his force followed the trail of a
marauding party which had just visited the settlements. They marched
through the woods towards the Tennessee until they heard the voice of
the great river as it roared over the shoals. For a day they lurked in
the cane on the north side, waiting until they were certain no spies
were watching them. In the night some of the men swam over and stole a
big canoe, with which they returned. At daylight the troops crossed, a
few in this canoe, the others swimming with their horses. After landing,
they marched seven miles and fell on the town, which was in a ravine,
with cornfields round about. Taken by surprise, the warriors, with no
effective resistance, fled to their canoes. The white riflemen thronged
after them. Most of the warriors escaped, but over twenty were slain; as
were also four or five French traders, while half a dozen Frenchmen and
one Indian squaw were captured. All the cabins were destroyed, the live
stock was slain, and much plunder taken. The prisoners were well treated
and released; but on the way home another party of French traders were
encountered, and their goods were taken from them. The two Chickasaws
were given their full share of all the plunder.

This blow gave a breathing spell to the Cumberland settlements.
Robertson at once wrote to the French in the Illinois country, and also
to some Delawares, who had recently come to the neighborhood, and were
preserving a dubious neutrality. He explained the necessity of their
expedition, and remarked that if any innocent people, whether Frenchmen
or Indians, had suffered in the attack, they had to blame themselves;
they were in evil company, and the assailants could not tell the good
from the bad. If any Americans had been there, they would have suffered
just the same. In conclusion he warned the French that if their traders
continued to furnish the hostile Indians with powder and lead, they
would "render themselves very insecure"; and to the Indians he wrote
that, in the event of a war, "you will compell ous to retaliate, which
will be a grate pridgedes to your nation." [Footnote: Robertson MSS. His
letter above referred to, and another, in his own hand, to the
Delawares, of about the same date.] He did not spell well; but his
meaning was plain, and his hand was known to be heavy.


INTRIGUES, 1784-1788.

It was important for the frontiersmen to take the Lake Posts from the
British; but it was even more important to wrest from the Spaniards the
free navigation of the Mississippi. While the Lake Posts were held by
the garrisons of a foreign power, the work of settling the northwestern
territory was bound to go forward slowly and painfully; but while the
navigation of the Mississippi was barred, even the settlements already
founded could not attain to their proper prosperity and importance.

Need of Free Navigation of the Mississippi.

The lusty young commonwealths which were springing into life on the Ohio
and its tributaries knew that commerce with the outside world was
essential to their full and proper growth. The high, forest-clad ranges
of the Appalachians restricted and hampered their mercantile relations
with the older States, and therefore with the Europe which lay beyond;
while the giant river offered itself as a huge trade artery to bring
them close to all the outer world, if only they were allowed its free
use. Navigable rivers are of great importance to a country's trade now;
but a hundred years ago their importance was relatively far greater.
Steam, railroads, electricity, have worked a revolution so stupendous,
that we find it difficult to realize the facts of the life which our
forefathers lived. The conditions of commerce have changed much more in
the last hundred years than in the preceding two thousand. The
Kentuckians and Tennesseans knew only the pack train, the wagon train,
the river craft and the deep-sea ship; that is, they knew only such
means of carrying on commerce as were known to Greek and Carthaginian,
Roman and Persian, and the nations of medieval Europe. Beasts of draught
and of burden, and oars and sails,--these, and these only,--were at the
service of their merchants, as they had been at the service of all
merchants from time immemorial. Where trade was thus limited the
advantages conferred by water carriage, compared to land carriage, were
incalculable. The Westerners were right in regarding as indispensable
the free navigation of the Mississippi. They were right also in their
determination ultimately to acquire the control of the whole river, from
the source to the mouth.

Desire to Seize the Spanish Lands.

However, the Westerners wished more than the privilege of sending down
stream the products of their woods and pastures and tilled farms. They
had already begun to cast longing eyes on the fair Spanish possessions.
Spain was still the greatest of colonial powers. In wealth, in extent,
and in population--both native and European--her colonies surpassed even
those of England; and by far the most important of her possessions were
in the New World. For two centuries her European rivals, English,
French, and Dutch, had warred against her in America, with the net
result of taking from her a few islands in the West Indies. On the
American mainland her possessions were even larger than they had been in
the age of the great Conquisadores; the age of Cortes, Pizarro, De Soto,
and Coronado. Yet it was evident that her grasp had grown feeble. Every
bold, lawless, ambitious leader among the frontier folk dreamed of
wresting from the Spaniard some portion of his rich and ill-guarded

Relations of the Frontiersmen to the Central Government.

It was not alone the attitude of the frontiersmen towards Spain that was
novel, and based upon a situation for which there was little precedent.
Their relations with one another, with their brethren of the seaboard,
and with the Federal Government, likewise had to be adjusted without
much chance of profiting by antecedent experience. Many phases of these
relations between the people who stayed at home, and those who wandered
off to make homes, between the frontiersmen as they formed young States,
and the Central Government representing the old States, were entirely
new, and were ill-understood by both parties. Truths which all citizens
have now grown to accept as axiomatic were then seen clearly only by the
very greatest men, and by most others were seen dimly, if at all. What
is now regarded as inevitable and proper was then held as something
abnormal, unnatural, and greatly to be dreaded. The men engaged in
building new commonwealths did not, as yet, understand that they owed
the Union as much as did the dwellers in the old States. They were apt
to let liberty become mere anarchy and license, to talk extravagantly
about their rights while ignoring their duties, and to rail at the
weakness of the Central Government while at the same time opposing with
foolish violence every effort to make it stronger. On the other hand,
the people of the long-settled country found difficulty in heartily
accepting the idea that the new communities, as they sprang up in the
forest, were entitled to stand exactly on a level with the old, not only
as regards their own rights, but as regards the right to shape the
destiny of the Union itself.

The Union still Inchoate.

The Union was as yet imperfect. The jangling colonies had been welded
together, after a fashion, in the slow fire of the Revolutionary war;
but the old lines of cleavage were still distinctly marked. The great
struggle had been of incalculable benefit to all Americans. Under its
stress they had begun to develop a national type of thought and
character. Americans now held in common memories which they shared with
no one else; for they held ever in mind the feats of a dozen crowded
years. Theirs was the history of all that had been done by the
Continental Congress and the Continental armies; theirs the memory of
the toil and the suffering and the splendid ultimate triumph. They
cherished in common the winged words of their statesmen, the edged deeds
of their soldiers; they yielded to the spell of mighty names which
sounded alien to all men save themselves. But though the successful
struggle had laid deep the foundations of a new nation, it had also of
necessity stirred and developed many of the traits most hostile to
assured national life. All civil wars loosen the bands of orderly
liberty, and leave in their train disorder and evil. Hence those who
cause them must rightly be held guilty of the gravest wrong-doing unless
they are not only pure of purpose, but sound of judgment, and unless the
result shows their wisdom. The Revolution had left behind it among many
men love of liberty, mingled with lofty national feeling and broad
patriotism; but to other men it seemed that the chief lessons taught had
been successful resistance to authority, jealousy of the central
Government, and intolerance of all restraint. According as one or the
other of these mutually hostile sets of sentiments prevailed, the acts
of the Revolutionary leaders were to stand justified or condemned in the
light of the coming years. As yet the success had only been in tearing
down; there remained the harder and all-important task of building up.

Task of the Nation Builders.

This task of building up was accomplished, and the acts of the men of
the Revolution were thus justified. It was the after result of the
Revolution, not the Revolution itself, which gave to the governmental
experiment inaugurated by the Second Continental Congress its unique and
lasting value. It was this result which marks most clearly the
difference between the careers of the English-speaking and
Spanish-speaking peoples on this continent. The wise statesmanship
typified by such men as Washington and Marshall, Hamilton, Jay, John
Adams, and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, prevailed over the spirit of
separatism and anarchy. Seven years after the war ended, the
Constitution went into effect, and the United States became in truth a
nation. Had we not thus become a nation, had the separatists won the
day, and our country become the seat of various antagonistic States and
confederacies, then the Revolution by which we won liberty and
independence would have been scarcely more memorable or noteworthy than
the wars which culminated in the separation of the Spanish-American
colonies from Spain; for we would thereby have proved that we did not
deserve either liberty or independence.

Over-Mastering Importance of the Union.

The Revolutionary war itself had certain points of similarity with the
struggles of which men like Bolivar were the heroes; where the parallel
totally fails is in what followed. There were features in which the
campaigns of the Mexican and South American insurgent leaders resembled
at least the partisan warfare so often waged by American Revolutionary
generals; but with the deeds of the great constructive statesman of the
United States there is nothing in the career of any Spanish-American
community to compare. It was the power to build a solid and permanent
Union, the power to construct a mighty nation out of the wreck of a
crumbling confederacy, which drew a sharp line between the Americans of
the north and the Spanish-speaking races of the south.

In their purposes and in the popular sentiment to which they have
appealed, our separatist leaders of every generation have borne an
ominous likeness to the horde of dictators and half-military,
half-political adventurers who for three quarters of a century have
wrought such harm in the lands between the Argentine and Mexico; but the
men who brought into being and preserved the Union have had no compeers
in Southern America. The North American colonies wrested their
independence from Great Britain as the colonies of South America wrested
theirs from Spain; but whereas the United States grew with giant strides
into a strong and orderly nation, Spanish America has remained split
into a dozen turbulent states, and has become a byword for anarchy and

The Separatist Feeling.

The separatist feeling has at times been strong in almost every section
of the Union, although in some regions it has been much stronger than in
others. Calhoun and Pickering, Jefferson and Gouverneur Morris, Wendell
Phillips and William Taney, Aaron Burr and Jefferson Davis--these and
many other leaders of thought and action, east and west, north and
south, at different periods of the nation's growth, and at different
stages of their own careers, have, for various reasons, and with widely
varying purity of motive, headed or joined in separatist movements. Many
of these men were actuated by high-minded, though narrow, patriotism;
and those who, in the culminating catastrophe of all the separatist
agitations, appealed to the sword, proved the sincerity of their
convictions by their resolute courage and self-sacrifice. Nevertheless
they warred against the right, and strove mightily to bring about the
downfall and undoing of the nation.

Evils of the Disunion Movements.

The men who brought on and took part in the disunion movements were
moved sometimes by good and sometimes by bad motives; but even when
their motives were disinterested and their purposes pure, and even when
they had received much provocation, they must be adjudged as lacking the
wisdom, the foresight, and the broad devotion to all the land over which
the flag floats, without which no statesman can rank as really great.
The enemies of the Union were the enemies of America and of mankind,
whose success would have plunged their country into an abyss of shame
and misery, and would have arrested for generations the upward movement
of their race.

Eastern Jealousy of the Young West.

Yet, evil though the separatist movements were, they were at times
imperfectly justified by the spirit of sectional distrust and bitterness
rife in portions of the country which at the moment were themselves
loyal to the Union. This was especially true of the early separatist
movements in the West. Unfortunately the attitude towards the Westerners
of certain portions of the population in the older States, and
especially in the northeastern States, was one of unreasoning jealousy
and suspicion; and though this mental attitude rarely crystallized into
hostile deeds, its very existence, and the knowledge that it did exist,
embittered the men of the West. Moreover the people among whom these
feelings were strongest were, unfortunately, precisely those who on the
questions of the Union and the Constitution showed the broadest and most
far-seeing statesmanship. New England, the towns of the middle States
and Maryland, the tidewater region of South Carolina, and certain parts
of Virginia were the seats of the soundest political thought of the day.
The men who did this sane, wholesome political thinking were quite right
in scorning and condemning the crude unreason, often silly, often
vicious, which characterized so much of the political thought of their
opponents. The strength of these opponents was largely derived from the
ignorance and suspicion of the raw country districts, and from the sour
jealousy with which the backwoodsmen regarded the settled regions of the

But when these sound political thinkers permitted their distrust of
certain sections of the country to lead them into doing injustice to
those sections, they in their turn deserved the same condemnation which
should be meted to so many of their political foes. When they allowed
their judgment to become so warped by their dissatisfaction with the
traits inevitably characteristic of the earlier stages of frontier
development that they became opposed to all extension of the frontier;
when they allowed their liking for the well-ordered society of their own
districts to degenerate into indifference to or dislike of the growth of
the United States towards continental greatness; then they themselves
sank into the position of men who in cold selfishness sought to mar the
magnificent destiny of their own people.

Blindness of the New Englanders as Regards the West.

In the northeastern States, and in New England especially, this feeling
showed itself for two generations after the close of the Revolutionary
War. On the whole the New Englanders have exerted a more profound and
wholesome influence upon the development of our common country than has
ever been exerted by any other equally numerous body of our people. They
have led the nation in the path of civil liberty and sound governmental
administration. But too often they have viewed the nation's growth and
greatness from a narrow and provincial standpoint, and have grudgingly
acquiesced in, rather than led the march towards, continental supremacy.
In shaping the nation's policy for the future their sense of historic
perspective seemed imperfect. They could not see the all-importance of
the valley of the Ohio, or of the valley of the Columbia, to the
Republic of the years to come. The value of a county in Maine offset in
their eyes the value of these vast, empty regions. Indeed, in the days
immediately succeeding the Revolution, their attitude towards the
growing West was worse than one of mere indifference; it was one of
alarm and dislike. They for the moment adopted towards the West a
position not wholly unlike that which England had held towards the
American colonies as a whole. They came dangerously near repeating, in
their feeling towards their younger brethren on the Ohio, the very
blunder committed in reference to themselves by their elder brethren in
Britain. For some time they seemed, like the British, unable to grasp
the grandeur of their race's imperial destiny. They hesitated to throw
themselves with hearty enthusiasm into the task of building a nation
with a continent as its base. They rather shrank from the idea as
implying a lesser weight of their own section in the nation; not yet
understanding that to an American the essential thing was the growth and
well-being of America, while the relative importance of the locality
where he dwelt was a matter of small moment.

Eastern Efforts to Shear the West's Strength.

The extreme representatives of this northeastern sectionalism not only
objected to the growth of the West at the time now under consideration,
but even avowed a desire to work it harm, by shutting the Mississippi,
so as to benefit the commerce of the Atlantic States--a manifestation of
cynical and selfish disregard of the rights of their fellow-countrymen
quite as flagrant as any piece of tyranny committed or proposed by King
George's ministers in reference to America. These intolerant extremists
not only opposed the admission of the young western States into the
Union, but at a later date actually announced that the annexation by the
United States of vast territories beyond the Mississippi offered just
cause for the secession of the northeastern States. Even those who did
not take such an advanced ground felt an unreasonable dread lest the
West might grow to overtop the East in power. In their desire to prevent
this (which has long since happened without a particle of damage
resulting to the East), they proposed to establish in the Constitution
that the representatives from the West should never exceed in number
those from the East,--a proviso which would not have been merely futile,
for it would quite properly have been regarded by the West as

A curious feature of the way many honest men looked at the West was
their inability to see how essentially transient were some of the
characteristics to which they objected. Thus they were alarmed at the
turbulence and the lawless shortcomings of various kinds which grew out
of the conditions of frontier settlement and sparse population. They
looked with anxious foreboding to the time when the turbulent and
lawless people would be very numerous, and would form a dense and
powerful population; failing to see that in exact proportion as the
population became dense, the conditions which caused the qualities to
which they objected would disappear. Even the men who had too much good
sense to share these fears, even men as broadly patriotic as Jay, could
not realize the extreme rapidity of western growth. Kentucky and
Tennessee grew much faster than any of the old frontier colonies had
ever grown; and from sheer lack of experience, eastern statesmen could
not realize that this rapidity of growth made the navigation of the
Mississippi a matter of immediate and not of future interest to the

Failure to Perceive Truths Now Regarded as Self-Evident.

In short, these good people were learning with reluctance and difficulty
to accept as necessary certain facts which we regard as part of the
order of our political nature. We look at territorial expansion, and the
admission of new States, as part of a process as natural as it is
desirable. To our forefathers the process was novel, and, in some of its
features, repugnant. Many of them could not divest themselves of the
feeling that the old States ought to receive more consideration than the
new; whereas nowadays it would never occur to anyone that Pennsylvania
and Georgia ought to stand either above or below California and Montana.
It is an inestimable boon to all four States to be in the Union, but
this is because the citizens of all of them are on a common footing. If
the new commonwealths in the Rocky Mountains and on the Pacific slope
were not cordially accepted by the original Thirteen States as having
exactly the same rights and privileges of every kind, it would be better
for them to stand alone. As a matter of fact, we have become so
accustomed to the idea of the equality of the different States, that it
never enters our heads to conceive of the possibility of its being
otherwise. The feeling in its favor is so genuine and universal that we
are not even conscious that it exists. Nobody dreams of treating the
fact that the new commonwealths are offshoots of the old as furnishing
grounds for any discrimination in reference to them, one way or the
other. There still exist dying jealousies between different States and
sections, but this particular feeling does not enter into them in any
way whatsoever.

The East Distrusts the Trans-Alleghany People.

At the time when Kentucky was struggling for statehood, this feeling,
though it had been given its death-blow by the success of the
Revolution, still lingered here and there on the Atlantic coast. It was
manifest in the attitude of many prominent people--the leaders in their
communities--towards the new commonwealths growing up beyond the
Alleghanies. Had this intolerant sectional feeling ever prevailed and
been adopted as the policy of the Atlantic States, the West would have
revolted, and would have been right in revolting. But the manifestations
of this sectionalism proved abortive; the broad patriotism of leaders
like Washington prevailed. In the actual event the East did full and
free justice to the West. In consequence we are now one nation.

Separatist and Disunion Feeling in the West.

While many of the people on the eastern seaboard thus took an
indefensible position in reference to the trans-Alleghany settlements,
in the period immediately succeeding the Revolution, there were large
bodies of the population of these same settlements, including very many
of their popular leaders, whose own attitude towards the Union was, if
anything, even more blameworthy. They were clamorous about their rights,
and were not unready to use veiled threats of disunion when they deemed
these rights infringed; but they showed little appreciation of their own
duties to the Union. For certain of the positions which they assumed no
excuse can be offered. They harped continually on the feebleness of the
Federal authorities, and the inability of these authorities to do them
justice or offer them adequate protection against the Indian and the
Spaniard; yet they bitterly opposed the adoption of the very
Constitution which provided a strong and stable Federal Government, and
turned the weak confederacy, despised at home and abroad, into one of
the great nations of the earth. They showed little self-control, little
willingness to wait with patience until it was possible to remedy any of
the real or fancied wrongs of which they complained. They made no
allowance for the difficulties so plentifully strewn in the path of the
Federal authorities. They clamored for prompt and effective action, and
yet clamored just as loudly against the men who sought to create a
national executive with power to take this prompt and effective action.
They demanded that the United States wrest from the British the Lake
Posts, and from the Spaniards the navigation of the Mississippi. Yet
they seemed incapable of understanding that if they separated from the
Union they would thereby forfeit all chance of achieving the very
purposes they had in view, because they would then certainly be at the
mercy of Britain, and probably, at least for some time, at the mercy of
Spain also. They opposed giving the United States the necessary civil
and military power, although it was only by the possession and exercise
of such power that it would be possible to secure for the westerners
what they wished. In all human probability, the whole country round the
Great Lakes would still be British territory, and the mouth of the
Mississippi still in the hands of some European power, had the folly of
the separatists won the day and had the West been broken up into
independent States.

Shortcomings of the Frontiersmen.

These shortcomings were not special or peculiar to the frontiersmen of
the Ohio valley at the close of the eighteenth century. All our
frontiersmen have betrayed a tendency towards them at times, though the
exhibitions of this tendency have grown steadily less and less decided.
In Vermont, during the years between the close of the Revolution and the
adoption of the Constitution, the state of affairs was very much what it
was in Kentucky at the same time. [Footnote: _Pennsylvania Magazine of
History and Biography_, xi., No. 2, pp. 160-165, Letters of Levi Allen,
Ethan Allen, and others, from 1787 to 1790.] In each territory there was
acute friction with a neighboring State. In each there was a small knot
of men who wished the community to keep out of the new American nation,
and to enter into some sort of alliance with a European nation, England
in one case, Spain in the other. In each there was a considerable but
fluctuating separatist party, desirous that the territory should become
an independent nation on its own account. In each case the separatist
movements failed, and the final triumph lay with the men of broadly
national ideas, so that both Kentucky and Vermont became States of one
indissoluble Union.

Final Triumph of the Union Party.

This final triumph of the Union party in these first-formed frontier
States was fraught with immeasurable good for them and for the whole
nation of which they became parts. It established a precedent for the
action of all the other States that sprang into being as the frontier
rolled westward. It decided that the interior of North America should
form part of one great Republic, and should not be parcelled out among a
crowd of English-speaking Uruguays and Ecquadors, powerful only to
damage one another, and helpless to exact respect from alien foes or to
keep order in their own households. It vastly increased the significance
of the outcome of the Revolution, for it decided that its after-effects
should be felt throughout the entire continent, not merely in the way of
example, but by direct impress. The creation of a nation stretching
along the Atlantic seaboard was of importance in itself, but the
importance was immensely increased when once it was decided that the
nation should cover a region larger than all Europe.

Excuses for Some of the Separatists.

While giving unlimited praise to the men so clearsighted, and of such
high thought, that from the beginning they foresaw the importance of the
Union, and strove to include all the West therein, we must beware of
blaming overmuch those whose vision was less acute. The experiment of
the Union was as yet inchoate; its benefits were prospective; and
loyalty to it was loyalty to a splendid idea the realization of which
lay in the future rather than in the present. All honor must be awarded
to the men who under such conditions could be loyal to so high an ideal;
but we must not refuse to see the many strong and admirable qualities in
some of the men who looked less keenly into the future. It would be mere
folly [Footnote: R. T. Durrett, "Centenary of Kentucky," 64.] to judge a
man who in 1787 was lukewarm or even hostile to the Union by the same
standard we should use in testing his son's grandson a century later.
Finally, where a man's general course was one of devotion to the Union,
it is easy to forgive him some momentary lapse, due to a misconception
on his part of the real needs of the hour, or to passing but intense
irritation at some display of narrow indifference to the rights of his
section by the people of some other section. Patrick Henry himself made
one slip when he opposed the adoption of the Federal Constitution; but
this does not at all offset the services he rendered our common country
both before and afterwards. Every statesman makes occasional errors; and
the leniency of judgment needed by Patrick Henry, and needed far more by
Ethan Allen, Samuel Adams, and George Clinton, must be extended to
frontier leaders for whose temporary coldness to the Union there was
much greater excuse.

Characteristics of the Frontiersmen.

When we deal, not with the leading statesmen of the frontier
communities, but with the ordinary frontier folk themselves, there is
need to apply the same tests used in dealing with the rude, strong
peoples of by-gone ages. The standard by which international, and even
domestic, morality is judged, must vary for different countries under
widely different conditions, for exactly the same reasons that it must
vary for different periods of the world's history. We cannot expect the
refined virtues of a highly artificial civilization from frontiersmen
who for generations have been roughened and hardened by the same kind of
ferocious wilderness toil that once fell to the lot of their remote
barbarian ancestors.

The Kentuckian, from his clearing in the great forest, looked with bold
and greedy eyes at the Spanish possessions, much as Markman, Goth, and
Frank had once peered through their marshy woods at the Roman dominions.
He possessed the virtues proper to a young and vigorous race; he was
trammelled by few misgivings as to the rights of the men whose lands he
coveted; he felt that the future was for the stout-hearted, and not for
the weakling. He was continually hampered by the advancing civilization
of which he was the vanguard, and of which his own sous were destined to
form an important part. He rebelled against the restraints imposed by
his own people behind him exactly as he felt impelled to attack the
alien peoples in front of him. He did not care very much what form the
attack took. On the whole he preferred that it should be avowed war,
whether waged under the stars and stripes or under some flag new-raised
by himself and his fellow-adventurers of the border. In default of such
a struggle, he was ready to serve under alien banners, either those of
some nation at the moment hostile to Spain, or else those of some
insurgent Spanish leader. But he was also perfectly willing to obtain by
diplomacy what was denied by force of arms; and if the United States
could not or would not gain his ends for him in this manner, then he
wished to make use of his own power. He was eager to enter in and take
the land, even at the cost of becoming for the time being a more or less
nominal vassal of Spain; and he was ready to promise, in return for this
privilege of settlement, to form a barrier state against the further
encroachment of his fellows. When fettered by the checks imposed by the
Central Government, he not only threatened to revolt and establish an
independent government of his own, but even now and then darkly hinted
that he would put this government under the protection of the very
Spanish power at whose cost he always firmly intended to take his own
strides towards greatness. As a matter of fact, whether he first
established himself in the Spanish possessions as an outright enemy, or
as a nominal friend and subject, the result was sure to be the same in
the end. The only difference was that it took place sooner in one event
than in the other. In both cases alike the province thus acquired was
certain finally to be wrested from Spain.

Spanish Dread of the Westerners.

The Spaniards speedily recognized in the Americans the real menace to
their power in Florida, Louisiana, and Mexico. They did not, however,
despair of keeping them at bay. The victories won by Galvez over both
the British regulars and the Tory American settlers were fresh in their
minds; and they felt they had a chance of success even in a contest of
arms. But the weapons upon which they relied most were craft and
intrigue. If the Union could be broken up, or the jealousies between the
States and sections fanned into flame, there would be little chance of a
successful aggressive movement by the Americans of any one commonwealth.
The Spanish authorities sought to achieve these ends by every species of
bribery and corrupt diplomacy. They placed even more reliance upon the
war-like confederacies of the Creeks, Cherokees, Choctaws, and
Chickasaws, thrust in between themselves and the frontier settlements;
and while protesting to the Americans with smooth treachery that they
were striving to keep the Indians at peace, they secretly incited them
to hostilities, and furnished them with arms and munitions of war. The
British held the Lake Posts by open exhibition of strength, though they
too were not above conniving at treachery and allowing their agents
covertly to urge the red tribes to resist the American advance; but the
Spaniards, by preference, trusted to fraud rather than to force.

Negotiations between Spain and the United States Concerning
the Free Navigation of the Mississippi.

In the last resort the question of the navigation of the Mississippi had
to be decided between the Governments of Spain and the United States;
and it was chiefly through the latter that the westerners could,
indirectly, but most powerfully, make their influence felt, in the long
and intricate negotiations carried on towards the close of the
Revolutionary War between the representatives of Spain, France, and the
United States, Spain had taken high ground in reference to this and
to all other western questions, and France had supported her in her
desire to exclude the Americans from all rights in the vast regions
beyond the Alleghanies. At that time the delegates from the southern, no
less than from the northern, States, in the Continental Congress, showed
much weakness in yielding to this attitude of France and Spain. On the
motion of those from Virginia all the delegates with the exception of
those from North Carolina voted to instruct Jay, then Minister to Spain,
to surrender outright the free navigation of the Mississippi. Later,
when he was one of the Commissioners to treat for peace, they
practically repeated the blunder by instructing Jay and his colleagues
to assent to whatever France proposed. With rare wisdom and courage Jay
repudiated these instructions. The chief credit for the resulting
diplomatic triumph, almost as essential as the victory at Yorktown
itself to our national well-being, belongs to him, and by his conduct he
laid the men of the West under an obligation which they never
acknowledged during his lifetime. [Footnote: It is not the least of Mann
Butler's good points that in his "History" he does full justice to Jay.
Another Kentuckian, Mr. Thomas Marshall Green, has recently done the
same in his "Spanish Conspiracy."]

Jay and Gardoqui.

Shortly after his return to America he was made Secretary of Foreign
Affairs, and was serving as such when, in the spring of 1785, Don Diego
Gardoqui arrived in Philadelphia, bearing a commission from his Catholic
Majesty to Congress. At this time the brilliant and restless soldier
Galvez had left Louisiana and become Viceroy of Mexico, thus removing
from Louisiana the one Spaniard whose energy and military capacity would
have rendered him formidable to the Americans in the event of war. He
was succeeded in the government of the creole province by Don Estevan
Miro, already colonel of the Louisiana regiment.

Gardoqui was not an able man, although with some capacity for a certain
kind of intrigue. He was a fit representative of the Spanish court, with
its fundamental weakness and its impossible pretensions. He entirely
misunderstood the people with whom he had to deal, and whether he was or
was not himself personally honest, he based his chief hopes of success
in dealing with others upon their supposed susceptibility to the
influence of corruption and dishonorable intrigue. He and Jay could come
to no agreement, and the negotiations were finally broken off. Before
this happened, in the fall of 1786, Jay in entire good faith had taken a
step which aroused furious anger in the West. [Footnote: State Dep.
MSS., No. 81, vol. ii., pp. 193, 241, 285, etc.; Reports of Sec'y John
Jay.] Like so many other statesmen of the day, he did not realize how
fast Kentucky had grown, and deemed the navigation question one which
would not be of real importance to the West for two decades to come. He
absolutely refused to surrender our right to navigate the Mississippi;
but, not regarding it as of immediate consequence, he proposed both to
Congress and Gardoqui that in consideration of certain concessions by
Spain we should agree to forbear to exercise this right for twenty or
twenty-five years. The delegates from the northern States assented to
Jay's views; those from the southern States strongly opposed them. In
1787, after a series of conferences between Jay and Gardoqui, which came
to naught, the Spaniard definitely refused to entertain Jay's
proposition. Even had he not refused nothing could have been done, for
under the confederation a treaty had to be ratified by the votes of nine
States, and there were but seven which supported the policy of Jay.

Washington and Lee agree with Jay.

Unquestionably Jay showed less than his usual far-sightedness in this
matter, but it is only fair to remember that his views were shared by
some of the greatest of American statesmen, even from Virginia.
"Lighthorse Harry" Lee substantially agreed with them. Washington, with
his customary broad vision and keen insight, realized the danger of
exciting the turbulent Westerners by any actual treaty which might seem
to cut off their hope of traffic down the Mississippi; but he advocated
pursuing what was, except for defining the time limit, substantially the
same policy under a different name, recommending that the United States
should await events and for the moment neither relinquish nor push their
claim to free navigation of the great river. [Footnote: "The Spanish
Conspiracy," Thos. Marshall Green, p. 31.] Even in Kentucky itself a few
of the leading men were of the opinion that the right of free navigation
would be of little real benefit during the lifetime of the existing
generation. [Footnote: State Dept. MSS., Madison Papers, Caleb Wallace
to Madison, Nov. 21, 1787. Wallace himself shared this view.] It was no
discredit to Jay to hold the views he did when they were shared by
intelligent men of affairs who were actually in the district most
concerned. He was merely somewhat slow in abandoning opinions which half
a dozen years before were held generally throughout the Union.
Nevertheless it was fortunate for the country that the southern States,
headed by Virginia, were so resolute in their opposition, and that
Gardoqui, a fit representative of his government, declined to agree to a
treaty which if ratified would have benefited Spain, and would have
brought undreamed of evil upon the United States. Jefferson, to his
credit, was very hostile to the proposition. As a statesman Jefferson
stood for many ideas which in their actual working have proved
pernicious to our country, but he deserves well of all Americans, in the
first place because of his services to science, and in the next place,
what was of far more importance, because of his steadfast friendship for
the great West, and his appreciation of its magnificent future.

Methods of the River Trade.

As soon as the Revolutionary War came to an end adventurers in Kentucky
began to trade down the Mississippi. Often these men were merchants by
profession, but this was not necessary, for on the frontier men shifted
from one business to another very readily. A farmer of bold heart and
money-making temper might, after selling his crop, build a flatboat,
load it with flour, bacon, salt, beef, and tobacco, and start for New
Orleans. [Footnote: McAfee MSS.] He faced dangers from the waters, from
the Indians, from lawless whites of his own race, and from the Spaniards
themselves. The New Orleans customs officials were corrupt, [Footnote:
Do. VOL III-8] and the regulations very absurd and oppressive. The
policy of the Spanish home government in reference to the trade was
unsettled and wavering, and the attitude towards it of the Governors of
Louisiana changed with their varying interests, beliefs, caprices, and
apprehensions. In consequence the conditions of the trade were so
uncertain that to follow it was like indulging in a lottery venture.
Special privileges were allowed certain individuals who had made private
treaties with, or had bribed, the Spanish officials; and others were
enabled to smuggle their goods in under various pretences, and by
various devices; while the traders who were without such corrupt
influence or knowledge found this river commerce hazardous in the
extreme. It was small wonder that the Kentuckians should chafe under
such arbitrary and unequal restraints, and should threaten to break
through them by force. [Footnote: Va. State Papers, iv., 630.]

The most successful traders were of course those who contrived to
establish relations with some one in New Orleans, or perhaps in Natchez,
who would act as their agent or correspondent. The profits from a
successful trip made amends for much disaster, and enabled the trader to
repeat his adventure on a larger scale. Thus, among the papers of George
Rogers Clark there is a letter from one of his friends who was living in
Kaskaskia in 1784, and was engaged in the river trade. [Footnote: Draper
MSS. Letter of John Williams, June 20, 1784.] The letter was evidently
to the writer's father, beginning "My dear daddy." It describes how he
had started on one trip to New Orleans, but had been wrecked; how,
nothing daunted, he had tried again with a cargo of forty-two beeves,
which he sold in New Orleans for what he deemed the good sum of $738;
and how he was about to try his luck once more, buying a bateau and
thirty bushels of salt, enough to pickle two hundred beeves.

Risks of the Traders.

The traders never could be certain when their boats would be seized and
their goods confiscated by some Spanish officer; nor when they started
could they tell whether they would or would not find when they reached
New Orleans that the Spanish authorities had declared the navigation
closed. In 1783 and the early part of 1784 traders were descending the
Mississippi without overt resistance from the Spaniards, and were
selling their goods at a profit in New Orleans. In midsummer of 1784 the
navigation of the river was suddenly and rigorously closed. In 1785 it
was again partially opened; so that we find traders purchasing flour in
Louisville at twenty-four shillings a hundred-weight, and carrying it
down stream to sell in New Orleans at thirty dollars a barrel. By summer
of the same year the Spaniards were again shutting off traffic, being in
great panic over a rumored piratical advance by the frontiersmen, to
oppose which they were mustering their troops and making ready their
artillery. [Footnote: Draper MSS. J. Girault to William Clark, July 22,
1784; May 23, 1785; July 2, 1785; certificate of French merchants
testified to by Miro in 1785.]

Among the articles the frontier traders received for their goods horses
held a high place. [Footnote: _Do_. Girault to Clark July 9, 1784.] The
horse trade was risky, as in driving them up to Kentucky many were
drowned, or played out, or were stolen by the Indians; but as picked
horses and mares cost but twenty dollars a head in Louisiana and were
sold at a hundred dollars a head in the United States, the losses had to
be very large to eat up the profits.

Creole Traders.

The French Creoles, who carried on much of the river trade and who lived
some under the American and some under the Spanish flag, of course
suffered as much as either Americans or Spaniards. Often these Creoles
loaded their canoes with a view to trading with the Indians, rather than
at New Orleans. Whether this was so or not, those officially in the
service of the two powers soon grew as zealous in oppressing one another
as in oppressing men of different nationalities. Thus in 1787 a
Vincennes Creole, having loaded his pirogue with goods to the value of
two thousand dollars, sent it down to trade with the Indians near the
Chickasaw Bluffs. Here it was seized by the Creole commandant of the
Spanish post at the Arkansas. The goods were confiscated and the men
imprisoned. The owner appealed in vain to the commandant, who told him
that he was ordered by the Spanish authorities to seize all persons who
trafficked on the Mississippi below the mouth of the Ohio, inasmuch as
Spain claimed both banks of the river; and when he made his way to New
Orleans and appealed to Miro he was summarily dismissed with a warning
that a repetition of the offence would ensure his being sent to the
mines of Brazil. [Footnote: State Dept. MSS., No. 150 vol. iii., p. 519.
Letter of Joseph St. Mary, Vincennes, August 23, 1788.]

Retaliation of the Frontiersmen.

Outrages of this kind, continually happening alike to Americans and to
Creoles under American protection, could not have been tamely borne by
any self-respecting people. The fierce and hardy frontiersmen were
goaded to anger by them, and were ready to take part in, or at least to
connive at, any piece of lawless retaliation. Such an act of revenge was
committed by Clark at Vincennes, as one result of his ill-starred
expedition against the Wabash Indians in 1786. As already said, when his
men mutinied and refused to march against the Indians, most of them
returned home; but he kept enough to garrison the Vincennes fort.
Unpaid, and under no regular authority, these men plundered the French
inhabitants and were a terror to the peaceable, as well as to the
lawless, Indians. Doubtless Clark desired to hold them in readiness as
much for a raid on the Spanish possessions as for a defence against the
Indians. Nevertheless they did some service in preventing any actual
assault on the place by the latter, while they prevented any possible
uprising by the French, though the harassed Creoles, under this added
burden of military lawlessness, in many instances accepted the offers
made them by the Spaniards and passed over to the French villages on the
west side of the Mississippi.

Clark Seizes a Spanish Boat.

Before Clark left Vincennes, he summoned a court of his militia
officers, and got them to sanction the seizure of a boat loaded with
valuable goods, the property of a Creole trader from the Spanish
possessions. The avowed reason for this act was revenge for the wrongs
perpetrated in like manner by the Spaniards on the American traders; and
this doubtless was the controlling motive in Clark's mind; but it was
also true that the goods thus confiscated were of great service to Clark
in paying his mutinous and irregularly employed troops, and that this
fact, too, had influence with him.

The Backwoodsmen Approve Clark's Deed.

The more violent and lawless among the backwoodsmen of Kentucky were
loud in exultation over this deed. They openly declared that it was not
merely an act of retaliation on the Spaniards, but also a warning that,
if they did not let the Americans trade down the river, they would not
be allowed to trade up it; and that the troops who garrisoned Vincennes
offered an earnest of what the frontiersmen would do in the way of
raising an army of conquest if the Spaniards continued to wrong them.
[Footnote: Draper MSS. Minutes of Court-Martial, Summoned by George
Rogers Clark, at Vincennes, October 18, 1786.] They defied the
Continental Congress and the seaboard States to interfere with them.
They threatened to form an independent government, if the United States
did not succor and countenance them. They taunted the eastern men with
knowing as little of the West as Great Britain knew of America. They
even threatened that they would, if necessary, re-join the British
dominions, and boasted that, if united to Canada, they would some day be
able themselves to conquer the Atlantic Commonwealths. [Footnote: State
Dept. MSS. Reports of John Jay, No. 124, vol. iii., pp. 31, 37, 44, 48,
53, 56, etc.]

Both the Federal and the Virginia authorities were much alarmed and
angered, less at the insult to Spain than at the threat of establishing
a separate government in the West.

The Government Authorities Disapprove.

From the close of the revolution the Virginian government had been
worried by the separatist movements in Kentucky. In 1784 two
"stirrers-up of sedition" had been fined and imprisoned, and an adherent
of the Virginian government, writing from Kentucky, mentioned that one
of the worst effects of the Indian inroads was to confine the settlers
to the stations, which were hot-beds of sedition and discord, besides
excuses for indolence and rags. [Footnote: Va. State Papers, III., pp.
585, 589.] The people who distrusted the frontiersmen complained that
among them were many knaves and outlaws from every State in the Union,
who flew to the frontier as to a refuge; while even those who did not
share this distrust admitted that the fact that the people in Kentucky
came from many different States helped to make them discontented with
Virginia. [Footnote: Draper MSS. Clark Papers, Walter Darrell to William
Fleming, April 14, 1783.]

Georgia and the Frontiersmen

In Georgia the conditions were much as they were on the Ohio. Georgia
was a frontier State, with the ambitions and the lawlessness of the
frontier; and the backwoodsmen felt towards her as they did towards no
other member of the old Thirteen. Soon after Clark established his
garrison in Vincennes, various inflammatory letters were circulated in
the western country, calling for action against both the Central
Government and the Spaniards, and appealing for sympathy and aid both to
the Georgians and to Sevier's insurrectionary State of Franklin. Among
others, a Kentuckian wrote from Louisville to Georgia, bitterly
complaining about the failure of the United States to open the
Mississippi; denouncing the Federal Government in extravagant language,
and threatening hostilities against the Spaniards, and a revolt against
the Continental Congress. [Footnote: _Do_., Letter of Thomas Green to
the Governor of Georgia, December 23, 1786.] This letter was
intercepted, and, of course, increased still more the suspicion felt
about Clark's motives, for though Clark denied that he had actually seen
the letter, he was certainly cognizant of its purport, and approved the
movement which lay behind it. [Footnote: Green's "Spanish Conspiracy,"
p. 74.] One of his fellow Kentuckians, writing about him at this time,
remarks: "Clark is playing hell...eternally drunk and yet full of
design. I told him he would be hanged. He laughed, and said he would
take refuge among the Indians." [Footnote: Va. State Papers, IV., 202,

Public disavowal of Clark's Actions.

The Governor of Virginia issued a proclamation disavowing all Clark's
acts. [Footnote: Draper MSS. Proclamation of Edmund Randolph, March 4,
1787.] A committee of the Kentucky Convention, which included the
leaders of Kentucky's political thought and life, examined into the
matter, [Footnote: State Dept. MSS., No. 71, vol. ii., p. 503. Report of
Dec. 19, 1786.] and gave Clark's version of the facts, but reprobated
and disowned his course. Some of the members of this Convention were
afterwards identified with various separatist movements, and skirted the
field of perilous intrigue with a foreign power; but they recognized the
impossibility of countenancing such mere buccaneering lawlessness as
Clark's; and not only joined with their colleagues in denouncing it to
the Virginia Government, but warned the latter that Clark's habits were
such as to render him unfit longer to be trusted with work of
importance. [Footnote: Green, p. 78.]

Experience of a Cumberland Trader.

The rougher spirits, all along the border of course sympathized with
Clark. In this same year 1786 the goods and boats of a trader from the
Cumberland district were seized and confiscated by the Spanish
commandant at Natchez. [Footnote: State Dept. MSS., No. 124, vol. iii.
Papers transmitted by Blount, Hawkins, and Ashe, March 29, 1787,
including deposition of Thomas Amis, Nov 13, 1786. Letter from
Fayettsville, Dec. 29, 1786, etc.] At first the Cumberland
Indian-fighters determined to retaliate in kind, at no matter what cost;
but the wiser among their leaders finally "persuaded them not to imitate
their friends of Kentucky, and to wait patiently until some advice could
be received from Congress." One of these wise leaders, a representative
from the Cumberland district in the North Carolina legislature, in
writing to the North Carolina delegates to the Continental Congress,
after dwelling on the necessity of acquiring the right to the navigation
of the Mississippi, added with sound common-sense: "You may depend on
our exertions to keep all things quiet, and we agree entirely with you
that if our people are once let loose there will be no stopping them,
and that acts of retaliation poison the mind and give a licentiousness
to manners that can with great difficulty be restrained." Washington was
right in his belief that in this business there was as much to be feared
from the impetuous turbulence of the backwoodsmen as from the hostility
of the Spaniards.

Wrath over Jay's Negotiations.

The news of Jay's attempted negotiations with Gardoqui, distorted and
twisted, arrived right on top of these troubles, and threw the already
excited backwoods men into a frenzy. There was never any real danger
that Jay's proposition would be adopted; but the Westerners did not know
this. In all the considerable settlements on the western waters,
committees of correspondence were elected to remonstrate and petition
Congress against any agreement to close the Mississippi. [Footnote:
Madison MSS. Letter of Caleb Wallace, Nov. 12, 1787.] Even those who had
no sympathy with the separatist movement warned Congress that if any
such agreement were entered into it would probably entail the loss of
the western country. [Footnote: State Dept. MSS., No. 56. Symmes to the
President of Congress, May 3, 1787.]

Inconsistencies of the Frontiersmen.

There was justification for the original excitement; there was none
whatever for its continuance after Jay's final report to Congress, in
April, 1787, [Footnote: W. H. Trescott, "Diplomatic History of the
Administrations of Washington and Adams," p. 46.] and after the
publication by Congress of its resolve never to abandon its claim to the
Mississippi. Jay in this report took what was unquestionably the
rational position. He urged that the United States was undoubtedly in
the right; and that it should either insist upon a treaty with Spain, by
which all conflicting claims would be reconciled, or else simply claim
the right, and if Spain refused to grant it promptly declare war.

So far he was emphatically right. His cool and steadfast insistence on
our rights, and his clearsighted recognition of the proper way to obtain
them, contrasted well with the mixed turbulence and foolishness of the
Westerners who denounced him. They refused to give up the Mississippi;
and yet they also refused to support the party to which Jay belonged,
and therefore refused to establish a government strong enough to obtain
their rights by open force.

But Jay erred when he added, as he did, that there was no middle course
possible; that we must either treat or make war. It was undoubtedly to
our discredit, and to our temporary harm, that we refused to follow
either course; it showed the existence of very undesirable national
qualities, for it showed that we were loud in claiming rights which we
lacked the resolution and foresight to enforce. Nevertheless, as these
undesirable qualities existed, it was the part of a wise statesman to
recognize their existence and do the best he could in spite of them. The
best course to follow under such circumstances was to do nothing until
the national fibre hardened, and this was the course which Washington

Wilkinson Rises to Prominence.

In this summer of 1787 there rose to public prominence in the western
country a man whose influence upon it was destined to be malign in
intention rather than in actual fact. James Wilkinson, by birth a
Marylander, came to Kentucky in 1784. He had done his duty respectably
as a soldier in the Revolutionary War, for he possessed sufficient
courage and capacity to render average service in subordinate positions,
though at a later date he showed abject inefficiency as commander of an
army. He was a good-looking, plausible, energetic man, gifted with a
taste for adventure, with much proficiency in low intrigue, and with a
certain address in influencing and managing bodies of men. He also spoke
and wrote well, according to the rather florid canons of the day. In
character he can only be compared to Benedict Arnold, though he entirely
lacked Arnold's ability and brilliant courage. He had no conscience and
no scruples; he had not the slightest idea of the meaning of the word
honor; he betrayed his trust from the basest motives, and he was too
inefficient to make his betrayal effective. He was treacherous to the
Union while it was being formed and after it had been formed; and his
crime was aggravated by the sordid meanness of his motives, for he
eagerly sought opportunities to barter his own infamy for money. In all
our history there is no more despicable character.

He Trades to New Orleans.

Wilkinson was a man of broken fortune when he came to the West. In three
years he made a good position for himself, in matters commercial and
political, and his restless, adventurous nature, and thirst for
excitement and intrigue, prompted him to try the river trade, with its
hazards and its chances of great gain. In June, 1787, he went down the
Mississippi to New Orleans with a loaded flat-boat, and sold his cargo
at a high profit, thanks to the understanding he immediately established
with Miro. [Footnote: Wilkinson's Memoirs, ii., 112.] Doubtless he
started with the full intention of entering into some kind of corrupt
arrangement with the Louisiana authorities, leaving the precise nature
of the arrangement to be decided by events.

The relations that he so promptly established with the Spaniards were
both corrupt and treacherous; that is, he undoubtedly gave and took
bribes, and promised to intrigue against his own country for pecuniary
reward; but exactly what the different agreements were, and exactly how
far he tried or intended to fulfil them, is, and must always remain,
uncertain. He was so ingrainedly venal, treacherous, and mendacious that
nothing he said or wrote can be accepted as true, and no sentiments
which he at any time professed can be accepted as those he really felt.
He and the leading Louisiana Spaniards had close mercantile relations,
in which the governments of neither were interested, and by which the
governments of both were in all probability defrauded. He persuaded the
Spaniards to give him money for using his influence to separate the West
from the Union, which was one of the chief objects of Spanish diplomacy.
[Footnote: History of Louisiana, Charles Gayarre, in., 198.] He was
obliged to try to earn the money by leading the separatist intrigues in
Kentucky, but it is doubtful if he ever had enough straightforwardness
in him to be a thoroughgoing; villain. All he cared for was the money;
if he could not get it otherwise, he was quite willing to do any damage
he could to his country, even when he was serving it in a high military
position. But if it was easier, he was perfectly willing to betray the
people who had bribed him.

His Corrupt Intrigues with the Spaniards.

However he was an adept in low intrigue; and though he speedily became
suspected by all honest men, he covered his tracks so well that it was
not until after his death, and after the Spanish archives had been
explored, that his guilt was established.

He returned to Kentucky after some months' absence. He had greatly
increased his reputation, and as substantial results of his voyage he
showed permits to trade, and some special and exclusive commercial
privileges, such as supplying the Mexican market with tobacco, and
depositing it in the King's store at New Orleans. The Kentuckians were
much excited by what he had accomplished. He bought goods himself and
received goods from other merchants on commission; and a year after his
first venture he sent a flotilla of heavy-laden flat-boats down the
Mississippi, and disposed of their contents at a high profit in New

The River Trade and the Separatist Spirit.

The power this gave Wilkinson, the way he had obtained it, and the use
he made of it, gave an impetus to the separatist party in Kentucky. He
was by no means the only man, however, who was at this time engaged in
the river trade to Louisiana; nor were his advantages over his
commercial rivals as marked as he alleged. They, too, had discovered
that the Spanish officials could be bribed to shut their eyes to
smuggling, and that citizens of Natchez could be hired to receive
property shipped thither as being theirs, so that it might be admitted
on payment of twenty-five per cent. duty. Merchants gathered quantities
of flour and bacon, but especially of tobacco, at Louisville, and thence
shipped it in flat-boats to Natchez, where it was received by their
correspondents; and keel boats sometimes made the return journey, though
the horses, cattle, and negro slaves were generally taken to Kentucky
overland. [Footnote: Draper MSS. John Williams to William Clark, New
Orleans, Feb. II, 1789; Girault to Do., July 26, 1788, from Natchez; Do.
to Do., Dec. 5, 1788; receipt of D. Brashear at Louisville, May 23,
1785.] All these traders naturally felt the Spanish control of the
navigation, and the intermittent but always possible hostility of the
Spanish officials, to be peculiarly irksome. They were, as a rule, too
shortsighted to see that the only permanent remedy for their troubles
was their own absorption into a solid and powerful Union. Therefore they
were always ready either to join a movement against Spain, or else to
join one which seemed to promise the acquisition of special privileges
from Spain.

Robertson Talks of Disunion.

The separatist feeling, and the desire to sunder the West from the East,
and join hands with Spain or Britain, were not confined to Kentucky. In
one shape or another, and with varying intensity, separatist agitations
took place in all portions of the West. In Cumberland, on the Holston,
among the western mountains of Virginia proper, and in Georgia--which
was practically a frontier community--there occurred manifestations of
the separatist spirit. A curious feature of these various agitations was
the slight extent to which a separatist movement in any one of these
localities depended upon or sympathized with a similar movement in any
other. The national feeling among the separatists was so slight that the
very communities which wished to break off from the Atlantic States were
also quite indifferent to the deeds and fates of one another. The only
bond among them was their tendency to break loose from the Central
Government. The settlers on the banks of the Cumberland felt no
particular interest in the struggle of those on the head-waters of the
Tennessee to establish the State of Franklin; and the Kentuckians were
indifferent to the deeds of both. In a letter written in 1788 to the
Creek Chief McGillivray, Robertson alludes to the Holston men and the
Georgians in precisely the language he might have used in speaking of
foreign nations. He evidently took as a matter of course their waging
war on their own account against, and making peace with, the Cherokees
and Creeks, and betrayed little concern as to the outcome, one way or
the other.

Robertson's Letter to MacGillivray.

In this same letter, [Footnote: Robertson MSS., James Robertson to
Alexander McGillivray, Nashville, Aug. 3, 1788.] Robertson frankly set
forth his belief that the West should separate from the Union and join
some foreign power, writing: "In all probability we can not long remain
in our present state, and if the British, or any commercial nation which
may be in possession of the Mississippi, would furnish us with trade and
receive our produce, there cannot be a doubt but the people on the west
side of the Apalachian mountains will open their eyes to their real
interests." At the same time Sevier was writing to Gardoqui, offering to
put his insurrectionary State of Franklin, then at its last gasp, under
the protection of Spain. [Footnote: Gardoqui MSS., Sevier to Gardoqui,
Sept. 12, 1788.]

British Intrigue.

Robertson spoke with indifference as to whether the nation with which
the Southerners allied themselves should happen to be Spain or Britain.
As a matter of fact, most of the intrigues carried on were with or
against Spain; but in the fall of 1788 an abortive effort was made by a
British agent to arouse the Kentuckians against both the Spaniards and
the National Government, in the interest of Great Britain. This agent
was Conolly, the unsavory hero of Lord Dunmore's war. He went to
Louisville, visited two or three prominent men, and laid bare to them
his plans. As he met with no encouragement whatever, he speedily
abandoned his efforts, and when the people got wind of his design they
threatened to mob him, while the officers of the Continental troops made
ready to arrest him if his plans bore fruit, so that he was glad to
leave the country. [Footnote: Do. Gardoqui to Florida Blanca, Jan. 12,
1789, inclosing a letter from Col. George Moreau. See Green, p. 300.
Also State Dept. MSS., No. 150, vol. iii., St. Clair to John Jay, Dec.
15, 1788. This letter and many others of St. Clair are given in W. H.
Smith's "St. Clair Papers." VOL III-9]

Other Separatist Movements.

These movements all aimed at a complete independence, but there were
others which aimed merely at separation from the parent States. The
efforts of Kentucky and Franklin in this direction must be treated by
themselves; those that were less important may be glanced at in passing.
The people in western Virginia, as early as the spring of 1785, wished
to erect themselves into a separate State, under Federal authority.
Their desire was to separate from Virginia in peace and friendship, and
to remain in close connection with the Union. A curious feature of the
petition which they forwarded to the Continental Congress, was their
proposition to include in the new State the inhabitants of the Holston
territory, so that it would have taken in what is now West Virginia
proper, [Footnote: State Dept. MSS., Memorials, etc., No. 48, Thos.
Cumings, on behalf of the deputies of Washington County, to the
President of Congress, April 7, 1785.] and also eastern Tennessee and

The originators of this particular movement meant to be friendly with
Virginia, but of course friction was bound to follow. The later stages
of the agitation, or perhaps it would be more correct to say the
agitations, that sprang out of it, were marked by bitter feelings
between the leaders of the movement and the Virginia authorities.
Finding no heed paid to their requests for separation, some of the more
extreme separatists threatened to refuse to pay taxes to Virginia; while
the Franklin people proposed to unite with them into a new State,
without regard to the wishes of Virginia or of North Carolina. Restless
Arthur Campbell was one of the leaders of the separatists, and went so
far as to acknowledge the authorship of the "State of Franklin," and to
become one of its privy councillors, casting off his allegiance to the
Virginian Government. [Footnote: Va. State Papers, IV., pp. 5, 31, 32,
75, etc.] However, the whole movement soon collapsed, the collapse being
inevitable when once it became evident that the Franklin experiment was
doomed to failure.

Gradoqui's Residence in the United States.

The West was thus seething with separatist agitations throughout the
time of Gradoqui's residence as Spanish Envoy in America; and both
Gardoqui and Miro, who was Governor of Louisiana all through these
years, entered actively into intrigues with the more prominent
separatist leaders.

Miro and Navarro.

Miro was a man of some ability, and Martin Navarro, the Spanish
Intendant of Louisiana, possessed more; but they served a government
almost imbecile in its fatuity. They both realized that Louisiana could
be kept in possession of Spain only by making it a flourishing and
populous province, and they begged that the Spanish authorities would
remove the absurd commercial restrictions which kept it poor. But no
heed was paid to their requests, and when they ventured to relax the
severity of the regulations, as regards both the trade down the
Mississippi and the sea-trade to Philadelphia, they were reprimanded and
forced to reverse their policy. This was done at the instance of
Gardoqui, who was jealous of the Louisiana authorities, and showed a
spirit of rivalry towards them. Each side believed, probably with
justice, that the other was influenced by corrupt motives.

Miro and Navarro were right in urging a liberal commercial policy. They
were right also in recognizing the Americans as the enemies of the
Spanish power. They dwelt on the peril, not only to Louisiana but to New
Mexico, certain to arise from the neighborhood of the backwoodsmen, whom
they described as dangerous alike because of their poverty, their
ambition, their restlessness, and their recklessness. [Footnote:
Guyarre, p. 190. He was the first author who gave a full account of the
relations between Miro and Wilkinson, and of the Spanish intrigues to
dissever the West from the Union.] They were at their wits' ends to know
how to check these energetic foes. They urgently asked for additional
regular troops to increase the strength of the Spanish garrison. They
kept the creole militia organized. But they relied mainly on keeping the
southern Indians hostile to the Americans, on inviting the Americans to
settle in Louisiana and become subjects of Spain, and on intriguing with
the western settlements for the dissolution of the Union. The
Kentuckians, the settlers on the Holston and Cumberland, and the
Georgians were the Americans with whom they had most friction and
closest connection. The Georgians, it is true, were only indirectly
interested in the navigation question; but they claimed that the
boundaries of Georgia ran west to the Mississippi, and that much of the
eastern bank of the great river, including the fertile Yazoo lands, was

Spaniards Incite the Indians to War.

The Indians naturally sided with the Spaniards against the Americans;
for the Americans were as eager to seize the possessions of Creek and
Cherokee as they were to invade the dominions of the Catholic King.
Their friendship was sedulously fostered by the Spaniards. Great
councils were held with them, and their chiefs were bribed and
flattered. Every effort was made to prevent them from dealing with any
traders who were not in the Spanish interest; New Orleans, Natchez,
Mobile, and Pensacola were all centres for the Indian trade. They were
liberally furnished with arms and munitions of war. Finally the
Spaniards deliberately and treacherously incited the Indians to war
against the Americans, while protesting to the latter that they were
striving to keep the savages at peace. In answer to protests of
Robertson, setting forth that the Spaniards were inciting the Indians to
harry the Cumberland settlers, both Miro and Gardoqui made him solemn
denials. Miro wrote him, in 1783, that so far from assisting the Indians
to war, he had been doing what he could to induce McGillivray and the
Creeks to make peace, and that he would continue to urge them not to
trouble the settlers. [Footnote: Robertson MSS., Miro to Robertson, New
Orleans, April 20, 1783.] Gardoqui, in 1788, wrote even more explicitly,
saying that he was much concerned over the reported outrages of the
savages, but was greatly surprised to learn that the settlers suspected
the Government of Spain of fomenting the warfare, which, he assured
Robertson, was so far from the truth that the King was really bent on
treating the United States in general, and the West in particular, with
all possible benevolence and generosity. [Footnote: Gardoqui MSS.,
Gardoqui to "Col. Elisha Robeson" of Cumberland, April 18, 1788.] Yet in
1786, midway between the dates when these two letters were written,
Miro, in a letter to the Captain-General of the Floridas, set forth that
the Creeks, being desirous of driving back the American frontiersmen by
force of arms, and knowing that this could be done only after bloodshed,
had petitioned him for fifty barrels of gunpowder and bullets to
correspond, and that he had ordered the Governor of Pensacola to furnish
McGillivray, their chief, these munitions of war, with all possible
secrecy and caution, so that it should not become known. [Footnote:
_Do_., Miro to Galvez, June 28, 1786, "que summistrase estas municiones
a McGillivray Jefe principal to las Talapuches con toda la reserve y
cantata posible de modo que ne se transiendiese la mano de este
socorro."] The Governor of Pensacola shortly afterwards related the
satisfaction the Creeks felt at receiving the powder and lead, and added
that he would have to furnish them additional supplies from time to
time, as the war progressed, and that he would exercise every precaution
so that the Americans might have no "just cause of complaint."
[Footnote: _Do_., "sera necessaria la mayor precaucion, y mana para
contenerle cinendose a la suministracion de polvora, balas y efectos de
treta con la cantata posible para no dar a los Americanos justos motivos
de gueya."] There is an unconscious and somewhat gruesome humor in this
official belief that the Americans could have "no just cause" for anger
so long as the Spaniards' treachery was concealed.

Spanish Duplicity.

Throughout these years the Spaniards thus secretly supplied the Creeks
with the means of waging war on the Americans, claiming all the time
that the Creeks were their vassals and that the land occupied by the
southern Indians generally belonged to Spain and not to the United
States. [Footnote: _Do_.] They also kept their envoys busy among the
Chickasaws, Choctaws, and even the Cherokees.

In fact, until the conclusion of Pinckney's treaty, the Spaniards of
Louisiana pursued as a settled policy this plan of inciting the Indians
to war against the Americans. Generally they confined themselves to
secretly furnishing the savages with guns, powder, and lead, and
endeavoring to unite the tribes in a league; but on several occasions
they openly gave them arms, when they were forced to act hurriedly. As
late as 1794 the Flemish Baron de Carondelet, a devoted servant of
Spain, and one of the most determined enemies of the Americans,
instructed his lieutenants to fit out war parties of Chickasaws, Creeks,
and Cherokees, to harass a fort the Americans had built near the mouth
of the Ohio. Carondelet wrote to the Home Government that the Indians
formed the best defence on which Louisiana could rely. By this time the
Spaniards and English realized that, instead of showing hostility to one
another, it behooved them to unite against the common foe; and their
agents in Canada and Louisiana were beginning to come to an
understanding. In another letter Carondelet explained that the system
adopted by Lord Dorchester and the English officials in Canada in
dealing with the savages was the same as that which he had employed,
both the Spaniards and the British having found them the most powerful
means with which to oppose the American advance. By the expenditure of a
few thousand dollars, wrote the Spanish Governor, [Footnote: Draper
Collection, Spanish MSS. State Documents. Baron de Carondelet to Manuel
Gayrso de Lemos, Aug. 20, 1794; Carondelet to Duke Alcudia, Sept. 25,
1795; Carondelet's Letter of July 9, 1795; Carondelet's Letter of Sept.
27, 1793. These Spanish documents form a very important part of the
manuscripts in the Library of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin.
I was able to get translations of them through the great courtesy of Mr.
Reuben Gold Thwaites, the Secretary of the Society, to whom I must again
render my acknowledgments for the generosity with which he has helped
me.] he could always rouse the southern tribes to harry the settlers,
while at the same time covering his deeds so effectually that the
Americans could not point to any specific act of which to complain.

Spanish Fear of the Americans.

There was much turbulence and some treachery exhibited by individual
frontiersmen in their dealings with Spain, and the Americans of the
Mississippi valley showed a strong tendency to win their way to the
mouth of the river and to win the right to settle on its banks by sheer
force of arms; but the American Government and its authorized
representatives behaved with a straightforward and honorable good faith
which offered a striking contrast to the systematic and deliberate
duplicity and treachery of the Spanish Crown and the Spanish Governors.
In truth, the Spaniards were the weakest, and were driven to use the pet
weapons of weakness in opposing their stalwart and masterful foes. They
were fighting against their doom, and they knew it. Already they had
begun to fear, not only for Louisiana and Florida, but even for sultry
Mexico and far-away golden California. It was hard, wrote one of the
ablest of the Spanish Governors, to gather forces enough to ward off
attacks from adventurers so hardy that they could go two hundred leagues
at a stretch, or live six months in the wilderness, needing to carry
nothing save some corn-meal, and trusting for everything solely to their
own long rifles.

Spaniards Invite Americans to Become Colonists.

Next to secretly rousing the Indians, the Spaniards placed most reliance
on intriguing with the Westerners, in the effort to sunder them from the
seaboard Americans. They also at times thought to bar the American
advance by allowing the frontiersmen to come into their territory and
settle on condition of becoming Spanish subjects. They hoped to make of
these favored settlers a barrier against the rest of their kinsfolk. It
was a foolish hope. A wild and hardy race of rifle-bearing freemen, so
intolerant of restraint that they fretted under the slight bands which
held them to their brethren, were sure to throw off the lightest yoke
the Catholic King could lay upon them, when once they gathered strength.
Under no circumstances, even had they profited by Spanish aid against
their own people, would the Westerners have remained allied or subject
to the Spaniards longer than the immediate needs of the moment demanded.
At the bottom the Spaniards knew this, and their encouragement of
American immigration was fitful and faint-hearted.

Many Americans, however, were themselves eager to enter into some
arrangement of the kind; whether as individual settlers, or, more often,
as companies who wished to form little colonies. Their eagerness in this
matter caused much concern to many of the Federalists of the eastern
States, who commented with bitterness upon the light-hearted manner in
which these settlers forsook their native land, and not only forswore
their allegiance to it, but bound themselves to take up arms against it
in event of war. These critics failed to understand that the wilderness
dwellers of that day, to whom the National Government was little more
than a name, and the Union but a new idea, could not be expected to pay
much heed to the imaginary line dividing one waste space from another,
and that, after all, their patriotism was dormant, not dead. Moreover,
some of the Easterners were as blind as the Spaniards themselves to the
inevitable outcome of such settlements as those proposed, and were also
alarmed at the mere natural movement of the population, fearing lest it
might result in crippling the old States, and in laying the foundation
of a new and possibly hostile country. They themselves had not yet
grasped the national idea, and could not see that the increase in power
of any one quarter of the land, or the addition to it of any new
unsettled territory, really raised by so much the greatness of every
American. However, there was one point on which the more far-seeing of
these critics were right. They urged that it would be better for the
country not to try to sell the public land speedily in large tracts, but
to grant it to actual settlers in such quantity as they could use.
[Footnote: St. Clair to Jay, Dec. 13, 1788.]

Failure of These Colonization Schemes.

The different propositions to settle large colonies in the Spanish
possessions came to naught, although quite a number of backwoodsmen
settled there individually or in small bands. One great obstacle to the
success of any such movement was the religious intolerance of the
Spaniards. Not only were they bigoted adherents of the Church of Rome,
but their ecclesiastical authorities were cautioned to exercise over all
laymen a supervision and control to which the few Catholics among the
American backwoodsmen would have objected quite as strenuously as the
Protestants. It is true that in trying to induce immigration they often
promised religious freedom, but when they came to execute this promise
they explained that it merely meant that the new-comers would not be
compelled to profess the Roman Catholic faith, but that they would not
be allowed the free exercise of their own religion, nor permitted to
build churches nor pay ministers. This was done with the express purpose
of weakening their faith, and rendering it easy to turn them from it,
and the Spaniards brought Irish priests into the country and placed them
among the American settlers with the avowed object of converting them.
[Footnote: Guyarre, III., 181, 200, 202.] Such toleration naturally
appealed very little to men who were accustomed to a liberty as complete
in matters ecclesiastical as in matters civil. When the Spanish
authorities, at Natchez, or elsewhere, published edicts interfering with
the free exercise of the Protestant religion, many of the settlers left,
[Footnote: Va. State Papers, IV., 30.] while in regions remote from the
Spanish centres of government the edicts were quietly disobeyed or

Founding of New Madrid.

One of the many proposed colonies ultimately resulted in the founding of
a town which to this day bears the name of New Madrid. This particular
scheme originated in the fertile brain of one Col. George Morgan, a
native of New Jersey, but long engaged in trading on the Mississippi. He
originally organized a company to acquire lands under the United States,
but meeting with little response to his proposition from the Continental
Congress, in 1788 he turned to Spain. With Gardoqui, who was then in New
York, he was soon on a footing of intimacy, as their letters show; for
these include invitations to dinner, to attend commencement at
Princeton, to visit one another, and the like. The Spainard, a
cultivated man, was pleased at being thrown in with an adventurer who
was a college graduate and a gentleman; for many of the would-be
colonizers were needy ne'er-do-wells, who were anxious either to borrow
money, or else to secure a promise of freedom from arrest for debt when
they should move to the new country. Morgan's plans were on a
magnificent scale. He wished a tract of land as large as a principality
on the west bank of the Mississippi. This he proposed to people with
tens of thousands of settlers, whom he should govern under the
commission of the King of Spain. Gardoqui entered into the plan with
enthusiasm, but obstacles and delays of all kinds were encountered, and
the dwindling outcome was the emigration of a few families of
frontiersmen, and the founding of a squalid hamlet named after the
Iberian capital. [Footnote: Gardoqui MSS., Gardoqui to Morgan, Sept. 2,
1788. Morgan to Gardoqui, Aug. 30, 1788. Letters of Sept. 9, 1788, Sept.
12, 1788; Gardoqui to Miro, Oct. 4, 1788, to Floridablanca, June 28,
1789. Letter to Gardoqui, Jan. 22, 1788.]

Clark's Proposal.

Another adventurer who at this time proposed to found a colony in
Spanish territory was no less a person than George Rogers Clark. Clark
had indulged in something very like piracy at the expense of Spanish
subjects but eighteen months previously. He was ready at any time to
lead the Westerners to the conquest of Louisiana; and a few years later
he did his best to organize a freebooting expedition against New Orleans
in the name of the French Revolutionary Government. But he was quite
willing to do his fighting on behalf of Spain, instead of against her;
for by this time he was savage with anger and chagrin at the
indifference and neglect with which the Virginian and Federal
Governments had rewarded his really great services. He wrote to Gardoqui
in the spring of 1788, boasting of his feats of arms in the past,
bitterly complaining of the way he had been treated, and offering to
lead a large colony to settle in the Spanish dominions; for, he said, he
had become convinced that neither property nor character was safe under
a government so weak as that of the United States, and he therefore
wished to put himself at the disposal of the King of Spain. [Footnote:
Gardoqui MSS., Clark to Gardoqui, Falls of the Ohio, March 15, 1788.]
Nothing came of this proposal.

The Proposal of Wilkinson, Brown, and Innes.

Another proposal which likewise came to nothing, is noteworthy because
of the men who made it, and because of its peculiar nature. The
proposers were all Kentuckians. Among them were Wilkinson, one Benjamin
Sebastian, whom the Spaniards pensioned in the same manner they did
Wilkinson, John Brown, the Kentucky delegate in Congress, and Harry
Innes, the Attorney-General of Kentucky. All were more or less
identified both with the obscure separatist movements in that
commonwealth, and with the legitimate agitation for statehood into which
some of these movements insensibly merged. In the spring of 1789 they
proposed to Gardoqui to enter into an agreement somewhat similar to the
one he had made with Morgan. But they named as the spot where they
wished to settle the lands on the east bank of the Mississippi, in the
neighborhood of the Yazoo, and they urged as a reason for granting the
lands that they were part of the territory in dispute between Spain and
the United States, and that the new settlers would hold them under the
Spanish King, and would defend them against the Americans. [Footnote:
Gardoqui MSS., Gardoqui to Floridablanca, June 29, 1789.]

This country was claimed by, and finally awarded to, the United States,
and claimed by the State of Georgia in particular. It was here that the
adventurers proposed to erect a barrier State which should be vassal to
Spain, one of the chief purposes of the settlement being to arrest the
Americans' advance. They thus deliberately offered to do all the damage
they could to their own country, if the foreign country would give them
certain advantages. The apologists for these separatist leaders often
advance the excuse--itself not a weighty one--that they at least
deserved well of their own section; but Wilkinson and his associates
proposed a plan which was not only hostile to the interests of the
American nation as a whole, but which was especially hostile to the
interests of Kentucky, Georgia, and the other frontier communities. The
men who proposed to enter into the scheme were certainly not loyal to
their country; although the adventurers were not actuated by hostile
designs against it, engaging in the adventure simply from motives of
private gain. The only palliation--there is no full excuse--for their
offence is the fact that the Union was then so loose and weak, and its
benefits so problematical, that it received the hearty and unswerving
loyalty of only the most far-seeing and broadly patriotic men; and that
many men of the highest standing and of the most undoubted probity
shared the views on which Brown and Innes acted.

Wilkinson's Advice to the Spaniards.

Wilkinson was bitterly hostile to all these schemes in which he himself
did not have a share, and protested again and again to Miro against
their adoption. He protested no less strongly whenever the Spanish court
or the Spanish authorities at New Orleans either relaxed their vigilant
severity against the river smugglers, or for the time being lowered the
duties; whether this was done to encourage the Westerners in their
hostilities to the East, or to placate them when their exasperation
reached a pitch that threatened actual invasion. Wilkinson, in his
protests, insisted that to show favors to the Westerners was merely to
make them contented with the Union; and that the only way to force them
to break the Union was to deny them all privileges until they broke it.
[Footnote: _Guyarre_, iii., 30, 232, etc. Wilkinson's treachery dates
from his first visit to New Orleans. Exactly when he was first pensioned
outright is not certain; but doubtless he was the corrupt recipient of
money from the beginning.] He did his best to persuade the Spaniards to
adopt measures which would damage both the East and West and would
increase the friction between them. He vociferously insisted that in
going to such extremes of foul treachery to his country he was actuated
only by his desire to see the Spanish intrigues attain their purpose;
but he was probably influenced to a much greater degree by the desire to
retain as long as might be the monopoly of the trade with New Orleans.

The Spanish Conspiracy.

The Intendant Navarro, writing to Spain in 1788, dwelt upon the
necessity of securing the separation of the Westerners from the old
thirteen States; and to this end he urged that commercial privileges be
granted to the West, and pensions and honors showered on its leaders.
Spain readily adopted this policy of bribery. Wilkinson and Sebastian
were at different times given sums of money, small portions of which
were doubtless handed over to their own agents and subordinates and to
the Spanish spies; and Wilkinson asked for additional sums, nominally to
bribe leading Kentuckians, but very possibly merely with the purpose of
pocketing them himself. In other words, Wilkinson, Sebastian, and their
intimate associates on the one hand, and the Spanish officials on the
other, entered into a corrupt conspiracy to dismember the Union.

Wilkinson's Intrigues.

Wilkinson took a leading part in the political agitations by which
Kentucky was shaken through out these years. He devoted himself to
working for separation from both Virginia and the United States, and for
an alliance with Spain. Of course he did not dare to avow his schemes
with entire frankness, only venturing to advocate them more or less
openly accordingly as the wind of popular opinion veered towards or away
from disunion. Being a sanguine man, of bad judgment, he at first wrote
glowing letters to his Spanish employers, assuring them that the
Kentucky leaders enthusiastically favored his plans, and that the people
at large were tending towards them. As time went on, he was obliged to
change the tone of his letters, and to admit that he had been
over-hopeful; he reluctantly acknowledged that Kentucky would certainly
refuse to become a Spanish province, and that all that was possible to
hope for was separation and an alliance with Spain. He was on intimate
terms with the separatist leaders of all shades, and broached his views
to them as far as he thought fit. His turgid oratory was admired in the
backwoods, and he was much helped by his skill in the baser kinds of
political management. He speedily showed all the familiar traits of the
demagogue--he was lavish in his hospitality, and treated young and old,
rich and poor, with jovial good-fellowship; so that all the men of loose
habits, the idle men who were ready for any venture, and the men of weak
character and fickle temper, swore by him, and followed his lead; while
not a few straightforward, honest citizens were blinded by his showy
ability and professions of disinterestedness. [Footnote: Marshall, I.,

It is impossible to say exactly how far his different allies among the
separatist leaders knew his real designs or sympathized with them. Their
loosely knit party was at the moment united for one ostensible
purpose--that of separation from Virginia. The measures they championed
were in effect revolutionary, as they wished to pay no regard to the
action either of Virginia herself, or of the Federal Government. They
openly advocated Kentucky's entering into a treaty with Spain on her own
account. Their leaders must certainly have known Wilkinson's real
purposes, even though vaguely. The probability is that they did not,
either to him or in their own minds, define their plans with clearness,
but awaited events before deciding on a definite policy. Meantime by
word and act they pursued a course which might be held to mean, as
occasion demanded, either mere insistence upon Kentucky's admission to
the Union as a separate State, or else a movement for complete
independence with a Spanish alliance in the background.

It was impossible to pursue a course so equivocal without arousing
suspicion. In after years many who had been committed to it became
ashamed of their actions, and loudly proclaimed that they had really
been devoted to the Union; to which it was sufficient to answer that if
this had been the case, and if they had been really loyal, no such deep
suspicion could have been excited. A course of straightforward loyalty
could not have been misunderstood. As it was, all kinds of rumors as to
proposed disunion movements, and as to the intrigues with Spain, got
afloat; and there was no satisfactory contradiction. The stanch Union
men, the men who "thought continentally," as the phrase went, took the
alarm and organized a counter-movement. One of those who took prominent
part in this counter-movement was a man to whom Kentucky and the Union
both owe much: Humphrey Marshall, afterwards a Federalist senator from
Kentucky, and the author of an interesting and amusing and fundamentally
sound, albeit somewhat rancorous, history of his State. This loyal
counter-movement hindered and hampered the separatists greatly, and made
them cautious about advocating outright disunion. It was one of the
causes which combined to render abortive both the separatist agitations,
and the Spanish intrigues of the period.

Gardoqui's Intrigues.

While Miro was corresponding with Wilkinson and arranging for pensioning
both him and Sebastian, Gardoqui was busy at New York. His efforts at
negotiation were fruitless; for his instructions positively forbade him
to yield the navigation of the Mississippi, or to allow the
rectification of the boundary lines as claimed by the United States;
[Footnote: Gardoqui MSS., Instructions, July 25 and October 2, 1784.]
while the representatives of the latter refused to treat at all unless
both of these points were conceded. [Footnote: _Do_., Gardoqui's
Letters, June 19, 1786, October 28, 1786, December 5, 1787, July 25,
1788, etc.] Jay he found to be particularly intractable, and in one of
his letters he expressed the hope that he would be replaced by Richard
Henry Lee, whom Gardoqui considered to be in the Spanish interest. He
was much interested in the case of Vermont, [Footnote: _Do_., May II,
1787.] which at that time was in doubt whether to remain an independent
State, to join the Union, or even possibly to form some kind of alliance
with the British; and what he saw occurring in this New England State
made him for the moment hopeful about the result of the Spanish designs
on Kentucky.

Gardoqui was an over-hopeful man, accustomed to that diplomacy which
acts on the supposition that every one has his price. After the manner
of his kind, he was prone to ascribe absurdly evil motives to all men,
and to be duped himself in consequence. [Footnote: John Mason Brown,
"Political Beginnings of Kentucky," 138.] He never understood the people
with whom he was dealing. He was sure that they could all be reached by
underhand and corrupt influences of some kind, if he could only find out
where to put on the pressure. The perfect freedom with which many loyal
men talked to and before him puzzled him; and their characteristicly
American habit of indulging in gloomy forebodings as to the nation's
future--when they were not insisting that the said future would be one
of unparalleled magnificence--gave him wild hopes that it might prove
possible to corrupt them. He was confirmed in his belief by the
undoubted corruption and disloyalty to their country, shown by a few of
the men he met, the most important of those who were in his pay being an
alleged Catholic, James White, once a North Carolina delegate and
afterwards Indian agent. Moreover others who never indulged in overt
disloyalty to the Union undoubtedly consulted and questioned Gardoqui
about his proposals, while reserving their own decision; being men who
let their loyalty be determined by events. Finally some men of entire
purity committed grave indiscretions in dealing with him. Henry Lee, for
instance, was so foolish as to borrow five thousand dollars from this
representative of a foreign and unfriendly power; Gardoqui, of course,
lending the money under the impression that its receipt would bind Lee
to the Spanish interest. [Footnote: Gardoqui MSS., Gardoqui to
Floridablanca, December 5, 1787; August 27, 1786; October 25, 1786;
October 2, 1789, etc. In these letters White is frequently alluded to as
"Don Jaime."]

Madison, Knox, Clinton, and other men of position under the Continental
Congress, including Brown, the delegate from Kentucky, were among those
who conferred freely with Gardoqui. In speaking with several of them,
including Madison and Brown, he broached the subject of Kentucky's
possible separation from the Union and alliance with Spain; and Madison
and Brown discussed his statements between themselves. So far there was
nothing out of the way in Brown's conduct; but after one of these
conferences, he wrote to Kentucky in terms which showed that he was
willing to entertain Gardoqui's proposition if it seemed advisable to do

Brown and His Party Work for Disunion.

His letter, which was intended to be private, but which was soon
published, was dated July 10, 1788. It advocated immediate separation
from Virginia without regard to constitutional methods, and also ran in
part as follows: "In private conferences which I have had with Mr.
Gardoqui, the Spanish Minister, 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 this
privilege never can be extended to them while part of the United States.
... I have thought proper to communicate (this) to a few confidential
friends in the district, with his permission, not doubting but that they
will make a prudent use of the information."

At the outset of any movement which, whatever may be its form, is in its
essence revolutionary, and only to be justified on grounds that justify
a revolution, the leaders, though loud in declamation about the wrongs
to be remedied, always hesitate to speak in plain terms concerning the
remedies which they really have in mind. They are often reluctant to
admit their purposes unequivocally, even to themselves, and may indeed
blind themselves to the necessary results of their policy. They often

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