A Paper Prepared and Read by his Great-Grandson James Wilkinson
Wilkinson, while having warm friends, made powerful and bitter enemies. The two men who hated him most were John Randolph and Daniel Clark. Randolph having in 1807, attacked Wilkinson on the floor of the House of Representatives, the latter challenged him, and on Randolph's refusal to fight, posted him as a coward and poltroon and called attention to the fact that he had been previously caned by an officer of the army.
In the Louisiana Gazette of April 3rd, 1807, is printed the following editorial from the Baltimore American, "The reader will find in our columns yesterday the far famed speech of Mr. J. Randolph. It is tinctured with all the bitterness which that gentleman never fails to mingle with his observations when he speaks of those whom he dislikes. It would really seen uncandid and ungenerous, for Mr. Randolph to treat with such inmeritedº severity, were it and p143 known that he entertains towards the commander-in‑chief a deadly rancorous personal hostility." [. . .]
This editorial shows Mr. Randolph's great inconsistency in first calling on the President to take the most "Prompt and efficacious measures for securing the union threatened with external war and conspiracy and treasons," and then in assaulting Wilkinson by declaring the Burr conspiracy was merely "an intrigue."
Randolph was then writhing from the result of the Chase impeachment. John Randolph no doubt derived his bitter and revengeful nature from his Indian ancestry.
His command of invective was only equalled by his ignorance of law and unfairness in debate. His most famous prosecution and failure was that of the impeachment of the federalist United States Judge Chase. After Chase's acquittal, Adams, Vol. 1, p240, says:
"The Northern democrats talked of Randolph with disgust and Senator Cocke of Tennessee who voted guilty as to Chase, told his federalist colleagues in the senate that Randolph's vanity, ambition, insolence and dishonesty, not only in the impeachment but in other matters, were such as to make the acquittal of Chase no subject of regret."
Wilkinson's other greatest enemy, Daniel Clark, was born in Sligo, Ireland, in 1766, and was educated in England. He came to New Orleans on the invitation of his uncle about 1784, and succeeded to the latter's estate in 1799. He was 21 years old when Wilkinson first came to New Orleans. Untrue to the country of his birth, like his compatriot, Thomas Power, he became and remained a Spanish subject when Great Britain was at war with Spain.a
It is a coincidence that O'Reilly, who invited the Creole leaders in New Orleans to a banquet and then treacherously murdered them, and Clark, who spent so much time and effort to assassinate Wilkinson's good name, were both Irish-Spaniards.
The firm of Clark and Dunn, in which the elder Clark was a partner, became in 1788, Wilkinson's agent in New Orleans, but owing to overcharges by young Clark, acting for that firm Wilkinson in 1790, transferred his business to Philip Nolan, who then became Wilkinson's agent.
The misunderstanding on Wilkinson's part was soon forgotten and Clark subsequently wrote Wilkinson the most fulsome letters, but the member from Sligo was simply biding his time to get even.
Clark's own letters to Wilkinson, (Memoirs, 2nd Vol., Appendix 14, 16, 17, 18, 33) show that deceit and treachery were habitual to him. He never did anything openly that involved any risk or blame to himself that he could get another to do for him.
p144 Even after the time that Clark was stabbing Wilkinson in the back by secret charges to Jefferson in 1802, he was writing April 13th, 1803, to Wilkinson, [. . .] "I already look on my fortune as lost, I am careless of personal danger. Point out therefore a useful line of conduct for me to pursue, and rely on its execution. In hopes of hearing from you shortly I subscribe myself with esteem, dear sir, Your very humble servant, Daniel Clark."
Among other fawning letters as late as June 15th, 1806, just after his election as a delegate to Congress, Clark wrote Wilkinson, [. . .] "I would likewise thank you for your advice respecting the part I ought to act in Washington; what people I should most see; what use can be made of them; how they are to be acted on, etc. and I count on your sending me a few letters which will serve to introduce me to your friends, so as to procure me on arrival some acquaintances who will take the trouble of giving me information. [. . .] Do not forget to mention to me the state of the land office in your country; and the state of the titles to lands, with the amendments you think necessary, and the land law." [. . .]
"If you have among your books and papers, any history, maps or plans of your country, or this territory, let me beg of you to send them, and I promise you to take special care to have them returned safely. [. . .] Let me know in what can I be of service to you, Yours sincerely, Daniel Clark." (Wilkinson's Memoirs, 2nd Vol., App. 75).
Again on September 27th, 1806, Clark wrote Wilkinson, after calling attention to the poor military condition of New Orleans.
"I know I am entering a thorny path, and shall expect a great deal of trouble. I would thank you for your advice to direct me; and if you would give me a line to some of your friends in Congress disposed to favor or serve Louisiana, you would, afterwards, perhaps, find your account in it." (Clark's Proofs, etc., p156).
Clark again wrote Wilkinson, October 2nd, 1806. (Clark's Proofs, p157):
"Captain Turner told me you expected to see me at Natchitoches,º I have no time to make the journey and return in time to go to the seat of government, and however strong the desire is of seeing you on my part I must defer that pleasure till my return next spring."
Yet of this writer, Daniel W. Coxe, his partner, testified at the trial of Wilkinson in 1811, "I never considered Mr. Clark and General Wilkinson as friends, beyond mere appearances, Mr. Clark always p145 thought illy of the General on account of his Spanish connections, and never to me (even in confidence) uttered an opinion in his valor."
To show the recklessness and venom that animated Clark against Wilkinson because the latter was indirectly the cause of preventing his bigamous marriage, in the collection of the mass of forgeries and exparte affidavits Clark procured and published as his proofs, at his own expense and all to gratify his hatred and malice, we find a suppression of the truth in the first few pages. An affidavit is published there of Col. John Ballinger, a man of high standing, stating that he had brought two mule loads of silver from New Orleans and delivered same to Wilkinson on December 26th, 1789, at Frankfurt. This was at a date that there was no question as to the integrity of Wilkinson's dealings at New Orleans. But by publishing that bald truth without stating the source of the money Clark knew Wilkinson would be prejudiced with the masses. On Wilkinson's trail in 1811, Col. Ballinger, who was cross examined on this affidavit, and testified, "ºI carried the money into Frankfurt as openly as I came into this town; delivered it to Wilkinson in the presence of many persons, whom I found there, some of whom I knew, some of whom I did not know; that from their conversations I found they knew I was coming, and were waiting my arrival; that they were tobacco planters of Lincoln county, in Kentucky, and were there to receive their money for tobacco which Wilkinson had purchased of them; for the cargo of which money conveyed by the witnessº was only a part of the proceeds; and that some disappointment was expressed by them, because the whole amount of the shipment had not been forwarded from New Orleans as had been expected."
To show what a degenerate Clark really was, early in 1801 aº confectioner in New Orleans, named Jerome Des Granges, sailed for France with letters of introduction from Clark, leaving his young and beautiful wife, born Zulime Carriere, to be aided by Clark's advice.
Evidently Clark became too intimate with the confectioner's wife as he later sent her to Philadelphia, where in April, 1802, a child was born to the guilty pair. The child was left in Philadelphia, and the wife was brought back to meet her husband on his return to New Orleans, in September, 1802, when strange to say the latter was arrested for bigamy. This was an improvement on King David's method of getting rid of a husband.
In Gaines vs. Relf (12 Howard, p282), the Supreme Court of the United States said of this incident:
p146 "The reports to which these witnesses swear, obviously originated with, and were relied on by Madame Desgrange, her sisters and friends, to harass and drive Desgrange from the country, so that his wife might indulge herself in the society of Clark, unincumbered and unannoyed by the presence of an humble and deserted husband, and this was in fact, accomplished, for Desgrange did leave the country soon after he was tried for bigamy, and Clark did set up Desgrange's wife in an handsome establishment, where their intercourse was unrestrained."
"In 1805, when Desgrange again came to New Orleans, his wife immediately sued him for alimony as above stated; speedily got judgment against him for $500 per annum; on the same day issued execution, and again drove him away."º
No proof for bigamy was presented against Des Granges and he was discharged. Des Granges, however, left New Orleans, and did not return until 1805, and during his absence, in 1803, Clark secretly married the grass widow in Philadelphia, and about 1805, in the city of New Orleans, a child was born of this marriage; the celebrated Myra Clark Gaines.b The child, while an infant was turned over to Mr. and Mrs. S. B. Davis, who raised her. She did not learn of her parentage until many years after the death of her father. On his visit in 1802 to Philadelphia to see his concubine, Clark found time to go to Washington and lodge charges against Wilkinson. In the case of Myra Clark Gaines vs. the City of New Orleans, Supreme Court of United States, 6 Wallace's reports, p67, is quoted a letter from Clark to Chew and Relf, dated February 18th, 1802, which stated: "I return three or four days from Washington, where I had the opportunity of seeing the President and officers of the government, by whom I was well received [. . .] It has been hinted to me that a great deal is expected from my services."
In his message to Congress, dated January 20th, 1808, "Messages and Papers of President,º Vol. 1, p437," President Jefferson says that in 1803, "He, Clark, was listened to freely, and he then delivered the letter of Governor Gayoso addressed to himself, and of which a copy is now communicated. After his return to New Orleans he forwarded to the Secretary of State other papers with the request that after their perusal they be burnt," (a la Mulligan Letters).
The administration of Jefferson paid no attention to this attempt to defame Wilkinson.
Clark prior to the cession of Louisiana had been United States vice-consul at New Orleans. He expected an important position from the President, and failing to receive it grew bitter against the p147 new regime. Possibly the fact that he had succeeded through himself, and in part by parties fraudulently interposed, in obtaining titles to •over 100,000 acres of valuable land from the Spanish regime, in Louisiana, worth subsequently over ten million dollars, may have accounted for his anxiety to be a ruling power in Louisiana. Note his anxiety on land matters in his last quoted letter to Wilkinson.
Governor Claiborne wrote on June 19th, 1805, to President Jefferson:
"It may perhaps be to you a matter of curiosity to know the nature and extent of the party to which I am indebted for those unfriendly attacks. I have no hesitation to tell you they proceeded originally from the resentment of Mr. Daniel Clark, who conceiving himself entitled to the confidence of the President, and possibly to some distinguished place in the administration here, is mortified to find himself so completely overlooked." Gayarre Vol. 4, p103.
Claiborne said further:
"Such persons from long practice are more conversant with the arts of intrigue. To what lengths the opposition to me may be carried I know not, but I am inclined to think that nothing will be left unsaid which can wound my feelings, and that my public and private character will be cruelly misrepresented."
Randolph also extended his hatred to Claiborne, as Gayarre (Vol. 4, p131), says:
"In 1806, John Randolph made a most bitter attack on Governor Claiborne in Congress which the latter much resented. This attack charged his administration with weakness and imbecility. In 1806 Claiborne again denounced Daniel Clark as being among the intriguers who opposed him. Clark from disappointment is greatly soured with the administration and unites in doing the Governor here all the injury in his power." (Gayarre 4, p142.)
"What contributed to increase Claiborne's vexation was the election of Clark, his personal enemy, as a delegate to Congress about that time." Gayarre 114.
In the Gaines case, above cited, a reference is made to a duel between Claiborne and Clark which Gayarre says nothing of.
Upon his election to Congress from New Orleans Clark repaired to Washington in 1806. He kept his marriage concealed, and posing in Washington as a man of great fortune proceeded to pay his addresses to a Miss Caton, a lady of a very prominent family from Baltimore, at that time in Annapolis, who subsequently married the Duke of Leeds. In the Gaines case, on pages 654 and 655, are his letters to his partner Daniel W. Coxe, about this projected marriage, the same Coxe who later wrote for Clark, the "Proofs of the Corruption of Wilkinson."
p148 Wilkinson being asked at a dinner in Annapolis, about that time, as to Clark's wealth said he was not a wealthy man, which statement was overheard by a member of the Caton family.
That Wilkinson's statement was true the U. S. Supreme Court in the Gaines case, 6th Wallace, p689, fifty-nine years later, verifies, saying:
"That up to the time of Clark's death he had no ready money and was greatly shortened for want of it; not being able to supply even his mother's small requirements."
In Wilkinson Memoirs (2nd Volume) he traces Clark's bitter enmity to this, his remark, as to Clark's fortune. Strange that in 1867, nearly 60 years later, Wilkinson's statements should be thus verified. In a letter quoted in the Gaines case, from Clark to Coxe, dated February 14th, 1808, the writer stated as to his courtship, "I am sorry to have to mention that it not only has not been effected, but that the affair is forever ended."
Coxe testified in the Gaines case that the engagement was broken off, because of a demand for marriage settlements by the lady's family, thus corroborating Wilkinson's statement in his Memoirs that the marriage was broken off because Clark could not make his pretensions of wealth. In the meantime Clark's wife, offended by his refusal to proclaim her his wife, and offended by her husband's attempt to marry another woman, in August, 1808, married in Philadelphia a French gentleman named Gardere, Clark not objecting. (See the Gaines case, p656).
Clark died on August 16th, 1813. Owing to his secretiveness to the last, he made a private will and the same was stolen and destroyed and secondary proof thereof was not successfully made until 1856, over 40 years later. (See succession of Daniel Clark, 11th Louisiana Annual Reports p124). By the decision in the Louisiana Supreme Court, Clark's mother was disinherited.
The contest of his daughter to prove her legitimacy was not however, entirely successful until December, 1867, (see the above Gaines case in the Supreme Court of the United States) and I, myself, remember Mrs. Myra Clark Gaines, as a tottering old woman, before she began to enjoy the proceeds of the enormous quantity of valuable lands her father got from Spain.
Clark was a man untrue to the country of his birth; untrue to his friends; untrue in his sworn depositions; untrue and deceitful to the woman he betrayed, as even after he made her his wife, he kept that marriage hidden and allowed her to be considered as his mistress before the world; he was untrue to the woman whom he subsequently p149 tried to commit bigamy with and to dishonor; he was untrue even to his own daughter, whose parentage he concealed for almost all of his life, whom he allowed others to care for and raise, and whom he subjected by his unnatural, deceitful and depraved disposition to suffer almost all of her long life from the unjust imputation of adulterous bastardy.
No man with a spark of honor or decency would convict any human being on the testimony of such a degenerate villain.
I desire to call particular attention to the fact that both Claiborne and Wilkinson, from the time they came from New Orleans together in 1803, to the admission of New Orleans as a Stateº were surrounded by a coterie of powerful French and Spanish enemies; that New Orleans then extended only from Esplanade to Canal streets and from the river to Rampart street, not one hundred blocks, and that New Orleans was then but the size of a modern village.
From 1803 to 1806, when Claiborne expelled the Spanish officers, he was thrown in contact with all classes of Wilkinson's enemies and if there had been any fact detrimental to Wilkinson it would have been impossible for Claiborne not to have learned of it. I now make public for the first time the private and confidential letters from Governor Claiborne to Wilkinson in May, June and September, 1807, which show that Claiborne had the most unbounded confidence in and regard for Wilkinson and also an abhorrence and contempt for Thomas Power, the principal witness in 1811 against Wilkinson. I now cite an original letter from Governor Claiborne to Wilkinson:
New Orleans, May 29th, 1807.
In a paper of yesterday General Adair's arrival at Nashville is announced, and it is added "that he is on his way to this city for the express purposes of visiting General Wilkinson." Adair must know of Burr's trial in Richmond and of your summons to attend. If, therefore, he be on his way hither, it seems to me to be his object to avoid rather than to seek you.
A splendid dinner was given on the 27th to the Honorable D. Clark. Mr. Ed. Livingston (Burr's counsel) presided assisted by Mr. Phil Jones and the ex-sheriff George Z. Ross. Among the guests were the Judges of the Superior Court and Mr. Alexander (another of Burr's lawyers) Counsellor at Law, the ci‑devant mayor of New Orleans and James Workman, late Judge of the County of Orleans. The latter spoke in his paper and said that great was the contrast between this dinner and the dinner which was given to General Wilkinson; that at the Clark's functionº that one hundred gentlemen sat down to dinner but at yours only thirty could be obtained. In point of numbers they may boast but I perceive that in point of respectability of character they do not claim pre-eminence."
I surely hope you had a pleasant voyage and that your arrival in Richmond was sufficiently early to meet the wishes of Government.
p150 Your friends here are all solicitous to learn the result of Burr's trial and the favorable impression which your conduct when it comes to be explained, must make on the American Society.
I pray you therefore to keep us advised of particulars and to receive my best wishes for your health, happiness and prosperity."
William C. C. Claiborne."
"General James Wilkinson."
The next letter from Governor Claiborne to Wilkinson, of which I produce the original, is marked "Private and Confidential."
New Orleans, June 16th, 1807.
My dear Sir:
You will have heard of my duel with Mr. Clark and the issue: I have suffered much pain; but the wound has assumed a favorable aspect and I hope in ten or fifteen days to be enabled to walk. General Adair is still here and receives great attention from some of our citizens. I am told that he is lavish in his abuse of you; but that was to have been expected.
With all my heart do I wish you prosperity and happiness but alike with myself, I fear you may have some difficult scenes to encounter.
I have given up the idea of writing a book. It would not assist me with my friends and would tend only to make my enemies more bitter. I think your book also might as well for the present be postponed; we have both justified ourselves to the President and with that I think we should be content.
For several reasons I must entreat you in no event to make public the statement I gave you concerning Mr. J. B. It can be of no service to you to make it public, and among other effects it might probably involve my friend Dr. Flood, in a dispute.
It is said that Dr. Bollman will be here in a few days and that Swartwoutº is also expected, I fear. I much fear the danger is not over.
Mr. Clark in his affair with me, acted the part of the gentleman and the soldier.
I am dear sir,
William C. C. Claiborne."
"General James Wilkinson."
The next letter from Governor Claiborne is also marked "Private."
New Orleans, June 26th, 1807.
I am this moment informed that General Adair is busily engaged in obtaining at this place such information in writing as he thinks is best calculated to injure you and that his object is to proceed on to Richmond in a few days. I know not what documents Adair may have collected but possibly it may be of some service to you to know, that he is thus employed.
My wound has been very painful, but is now much better and I hope to be enabled to walk in ten or twelve days. I sincerely wish you well.
William C. C. Claiborne."
The deposition of Lieutenant J. S. Smith of the U. S. Army, on March 25th, 1807, is published in the Louisiana Gazette of April 10th of that year, in which that officer declares that while Adair was a prisoner in his charge the latter said that if he had remained 48 hours in New Orleans, it would not have been in the power of Wilkinson p151 to arrest him. [. . .] He further swore he would take the life of the General at the first opportunity."
The fourth and most important letter of Governor Claiborne deals largely with the witnesses who were subpoenaed in the Burr trial, and particularly with the character of one Thomas Powers whom Daniel Clark suborned to commit perjury against General Wilkinson, on his later trial in 1811.
It will be noted that this letter was written years before Governor Claiborne ever knew that Wilkinson would be tried, or that this man Powers would be the star witness on Daniel Clark's part against him.
Powers, Derbigny, Merciere and McDonnough,º four out of the five witnesses Governor Claiborne states in this letter as summoned by Burr, are anti-Wilkinson witnesses whose evidence Clark has printed in his "Proofs" and Claiborne himself opposing Burr had just been shot by Clark in a duel.
This letter is as follows:
New Orleans, September 8th, 1807.
I thank you for your friendly letter of the 29th, of July. Ashley is now here, and was the bearer of many blank subpoenas. Thomas Powers, Derbigny, Fromentine, a man of the name of Merciere and Mr. Donnough have been summoned on behalf of Burr. Powers has gone; the other gentlemenº I learned have forwarded their depositions.
Hardin acts, (I understand) as Burr's counsel at Natchez and Livingston and Alexander in this city. Thomas Powers has said that if compelled to tell the truth, he must ruin you; but that he would claim the protection of the Spanish Minister, and if possible, avoid giving testimony. With this man Powers, I once had an interview, with a design of obtaining some particular information relative to certain propositions which he had made to certain persons in Kentucky. I did not attain my object but I clearly ascertained that Powers was a most unprincipled man and susceptible of a bribe. At this same interview, I well recollect, that Powers told me General Wilkinson was not either directly or indirectly concerned in the Spanish business and he called his God to witness the truth of what he said.
Our enemies here continue their exertions to injure us both and will omit no effort to accomplish their objects; but I trust and believe they can do us no injury.
I am dear sir,
Your friend sincerely,
William C. C. Claiborne."
"General James Wilkinson."
It will be noted that these letters evince a respect, esteem and affection on the part of Governor Claiborne towards Wilkinson, with whom he was very closely connected, both officially and personally, and both of whom were the object of the most persistent and bitter attacks of enemies who were industriously collecting every scrap of evidence that they could get to injure them.
p152 As between Randolph and Clark, the latter was utterly without principle and much the worst, but both were equally malignant and laid their plans carefully against Wilkinson. Randolph having been put in possession of all the papers and forgeries in Clark's hands that he had gathered against Wilkinson, on December 31st, 1807, sent up these papers (afterwards pronounced forgeries) for the Clerk of the House to read, and presenting a resolution to instruct the President of the United States to institute an inquiry into the conduct of Wilkinson for having "while commander-in‑chief of the armies of the United States corruptly received money from Spain or its agents," to create a more dramatic effect, then and there declared, pointing to Clark, that the latter, coerced by the authority of the House, could give more damning evidence against Wilkinson," and Clark (like Powers) in order to falsely appear as a reluctant accuser, demurred to giving evidence, although both Randolph and Clark were both full of venom and like snakes were coiled for their spring.
Wilkinson met this resolution and demanded a court of inquiry, which was granted by the President, January 2d, 1808. Both Randolph and Clark were summoned as witnesses and neither dared attend the trial, the former because he knew nothing of his own knowledge, the latter, for the same reason that he had asked Jefferson that his previous papers be burned, dared not submit his forgeries and scoundrelism to the test of a cross-examination and like a jackal at the presence of a lion slunk away afraid of the scourging he would have received. After six months of investigation and delays the court of inquiry brought in a verdict finding Wilkinson not guilty and further stating "that he had discharged the duties of his station with honor to himself and fidelity to his country." This finding was approved by Thomas Jefferson.
Clark in his "Proofs" claims a letter dated and signed "R. R.", calling Jefferson "a fool" and Claiborne "a beast" received at Philadelphia by Coxe, his partner, was written in Wilkinson's hand, and this statement is repeated, but like the story of the three black crows, the letter is credited directly to Wilkinson, in the Coxe article. (19 Am. Historical Review).
The main Wilkinson letter to Gayoso published in Clark's "Proofs," was proven and declared a forgery and was traced to Powers and Clark by the Wilkinson Court Martial in 1811, Clark not daring to appear before the tribunal to back his hand-work, though duly summoned.
p153 A little thing like ascribing an anonymous letter to Wilkinson was easy for Clark, however false the charge. Clark knew Wilkinson's handwriting well, therefore what object could the latter have had in writing a letter to Coxe, his partner, in his own hand, signed his fictitious initials and in it abusing his best friend and superior, Jefferson.
On December 2nd, 1808, Wilkinson was ordered by President Jefferson to assemble almost all the available troops at or near New Orleans, "and to have such disposition of the troops in that department formed as will most effectually enable you to defend New Orleans against any invading force. — H. Dearborn, Secretary of War."
Wilkinson does not mention in his memoirs that on his way to New Orleans he was entrusted by Jefferson with a secret mission to the Spaniards at Pensacola and Havana, which had for its object a possible coalition between Mexico, Cuba and certain South American colonies, and their later formation into powers independent of Spain. This was the first attempt at what became later the Monroe Doctrine in the United States.
Owing to the unsettled conditions in the Spanish possessions this mission was not a success.
By reason of the delay in these negotiations and because of slow transportation by sea Wilkinson did not reach New Orleans until April, 1809, where he found the troops already assembled many of them sick and destitute of supplies. It is important to note that under Jefferson, the evangelist of peace, the entire army of the United States had been allowed to dwindle to 3,000 men, 2,000 of which were then to be under Wilkinson at New Orleans. To preserve discipline, prevent desertions, and drill his troops, many of whom had never had proper military training, Wilkinson ordered his men into encampment at Terre aux Boeufs, a higher and healthier site than the present New Orleans U. S. Barracks site, and •about 10 miles below the latter.
Mr. Madison had then become President. The greatest warrior that ever lived said, "An army travels on its stomach." The present efficiency of the greatest military machine that the world has ever known is due largely to the Kaiser's automobile kitchens. Railroads and automobiles were then unknown. The present anxiety over the use of the railroads for supplies by our army in Mexico shows how important that branch of the service is. Wilkinson without complaint had for years marched his men through trackless forests and over marshes and unbridged rivers where there were no roads even for p154 wagons or carts, and had made no murmur, but he bitterly complains in his Memoirs of the miserable state of the commissary where his men were dying and even the medicines the doctors ordered were not supplied. One fact entirely overlooked by historians deserves careful notice. Gayarre says, Vol. 4, p224: "Claiborne in 1810, in consequence of the ravages of yellow fever during the previous year, recommended the legislature to make a sanitary code." Now it is a grave mistake to suppose that yellow fever does not spread to the country. The old original home of my grand father on the Pointe Celeste plantation, •40 miles below New Orleans, was burned down by its owner to kill the yellow fever germs of several persons who died there some time after the civil war. Mosquitoes also produce malarial fevers. We had then no Reed or Goethals, but Wilkinson finding the mosquitoes bad in his camp made a lengthy report to the Honorable Wm. Eustis, Secretary of War, dated May 12th, 1809, in which among other things he said:
"The troops are without bunks or berths to repose on or mosquito nets to protect them against that pestiferous insect with which this country abounds; these accommodations are absolutely necessary not only to the comfort but the health and even the lives of the men, but they have not been provided yet."
The penurious administration of Madison let an army suffer and die all summer, in spite of Wilkinson's solemn warning, because they were too ignorant and mean to protect that army from disease and death. The report of the Hospital supplies, appendix CV of Wilkinson's Memoirs, Vol. 2nd, shows on hand, "106 bed sacks, 75 sheets, 8 mattresses, 89 blankets and 35 mosquito bars," and this for an army of 2,000 soldiers. No bars were provided, and even requisitions for delicacies, ordered by the surgeons for the sick, were refused by Mr. Eustis, Secretary of War.
See official document, Wilkinson Memoirs, Vol. 3, 354, which says:
"These under the existing "fifty dollar order" (the utmost that he could spend) "cannot be procured because they would cost at least ten thousand dollars; the men must therefore suffer, until some different arrangement is delivered. [. . .]"
New Orleans was not well sewered, leveed and drained artificially then, as it is now, and was undoubtedly at that time a very unhealthy place.
The French Government had just before that time lost an army in San Domingo by yellow fever from mosquitoes. Mosquitoes vanquished the French and cost them thousands of lives before they abandoned the construction of the Panama Canal. In the p155 country below New Orleans common humanity still requires in summer the screening of stables and hen houses. In August, 1809, the hottest month of our southern summer, Wilkinson was ordered to move his army up to Fort Adams, which, to use the laconic expression of one of the surgeons made the "sick die and the well sick." On account of this mortality, which his enemies took advantage to hold him responsible for, Wilkinson was ordered to report at Washington and to surrender his command to General Hampton.
Wilkinson arrived in Washington April 17th, 1810. Two committees of the House of Representatives had then been appointed, one to inquire into the cause of mortality among the troops that he had recently commanded, and the other with powers to investigate his public life, character and conduct. Randolph and his partisans by this means sought to evade a judicial inquiry and under shelter of an ex parte inquiry, held out of Wilkinson's presence, to collect a mass of informal, unauthentic and hearsay evidence, which, being sent throughout the union as parts of congressional records, would blacken Wilkinson's character, and so poison the public mind against him that he would be ruined. This was kept for two sessions by four committees, Wilkinson, all the time demanding a hearing by court martial. The effect of this poisonous attack on the public mind overreached itself. The public began to ask why, if Wilkinson was guilty, as pretended, he was not prosecuted. In vain Wilkinson was asked by the Secretary of War to return and let these scandals die out. To every appeal his answer was, "I am innocent and wish to face my enemies."
On June 14th, 1811, the President was forced to order a court martial to try him, to assemble the 1st Monday in September, 1811. Thirty-one counts, which no doubt both Randolph, Clark and the latter's hired informers, aided in preparing, were specified in the charges against Wilkinson. Facing these charges, some of which were punishable with death, without counsel, which he was probably too poor to employ, the old veteran with the same courage with which he had sailed down to New Orleans to brave alone the hostility of Spain, faced an entire hostile administration and Congress, and without technicality pleaded not guilty,
In spite of the fact that every serious charge against him was then barred by the statute of limitations, he disdained such shelter; in spite of the fact that he had been acquitted by a previous court of inquiry of every serious charge in this new indictment and under the Constitution of the United States could not be twice put in jeopardy, for the same offense, he did not plead autrefois acquis; in spite p156 of the provision in the Constitution of the United States that in a criminal trial the accused and the witnesses must be brought face to face, and he, a scholar, knew it, he allowed the whole record of the Burr trial, to which he was not a party, the entire ex parte evidence and proceedings before four committees of Congress, largely hearsay evidence, to be introduced, and during the trial which lasted for over four months in which he denounced Clark for a perjurer, forgerº and scoundrel, in which he produced witness after witness to prove that both Daniel Clark and his venal dependent,º Thomas Powers, were unworthy of belief, Clark did not dare to appear and testify in open court. Not satisfied with defaming Wilkinson through congressional reports, Clark previous to this trial had procured Daniel W. Coxe, his partner and two other parties to write a book called the "Proofs of the Corruption of General Wilkinson," which he had published at his own expense, yet when called upon afterwards to make good his proofs Clark crawled like a snake into his hole.
It is true that an ex parte affidavit, filed by him in the shelter of a congressional committee room, was handed over to the court martial with other committee records. Knowing full well that it would be strange that he, posing as such a noble patriot, should have kept such important evidence as he testified to, locked in his bosom so long, Clark, in his carefully prepared statement, sworn to January 11th, 1808, stated:
"At the periods spoken of and for some time afterwards, I was resident in the Spanish territory, subject to the Spanish laws, and without an expectation of becoming a citizen of the United States. My obligations were then to conceal and not to communicate to the government of the United States the projects and enterprises, which I have mentioned of General Wilkinson, and the Spanish Government."
When he made this affidavit Louisiana had been American territory over four years.
Clark did not know when he made this deposition, that President Jefferson would by special message to Congress on January 20th, 1808, nine days later than Clark's deposition, prove that he was a perjurer and that while he was a citizen of Spain had tried to stab Wilkinson in the back, and then to have the weapons he did it with destroyed.
I do not propose to quote the many complimentary and fawning letters that Clark had written to Wilkinson before, after and during the times he charged the latter with wrong doing; I do not propose to cite the testimony of the many prominent men that Clark had p157 previously told that Wilkinson was innocent of these charges; I do not propose to cite the evidence of the witnesses that testified Clark was the most malignant of men, as these are all set out in Wilkinson's Memoirs, (2nd Volume). Suffice it, that the members of the court martial, in their finding, stated that Clark was impeached, which meant that he could not be believed under oath. Clark's star witness, Thomas Powers, arrived after the evidence was closed. At Wilkinson's request the case was reopened and Powers permitted to testify. His evidence was entirely shattered. Since his depositions have been quoted and relied on by some historians, I mention that Capt. John Bowyer, Silas Dinsmore and Governor Claiborne testified that Powers had declared to them that Wilkinson was innocent. Wilkinson further procured a voluntary written and signed statement, dated May 16th, 1807, and enclosed to him by Powers long after the incidents that Powers, who was later suborned by Clark narrated, which statement began:
"I, Thomas Powers, of the city of New Orleans, moved solely by a sense of justice and the desire to prevent my name being employed to sanction groundless slanders, do most solemnly declare that I have at no time carried or delivered to General James Wilkinson from the government of Spain or any other persons in the service of said government bills of money specie or other property."
This statement further absolves Wilkinson from any connection with Powers' mission to Kentucky in behalf of Spain.
On February 6th, 1803, Thomas Powers had written Wilkinson a fawning and obsequious letter concluding:
"I respect your virtue, admire your understanding, reverence and esteem your character and shall ever be proud of your friendship not only as an honor but an ornament."
Wilkinson further produced the depositions of Major G. C. Russell, Geo. Mather, and William Wikoff, Jr., that the character of Thomas Powers was infamous, as he was generally known as a venal dependent of Clark. The court martial in its reasons for verdict declared in its report, that Thomas Powers, like Daniel Clark, was unworthy of belief. The court martial delivered its lengthy verdict Christmas Day, 1811. We cite only a few passages from it:
"It appears evident to the court that in 1795 a considerable sum of money was due to General Wilkinson from the Spanish government at New Orleans on account of his commercial transactions. This circumstance is deemed sufficient to account for such parts of said correspondence as have been proved which was apparently to preserve the friendship of the officers and agents of the Spanish power to magnify the importance of General Wilkinson in their view; to secure his property then under their control in New Orleans; and to facilitate its remittance from that place [. . .]
p158 It is pertinent to remark, that if attempts were made to corrupt the patriotism and integrity of General Wilkinson, the records of this court exhibit no one act of military life which can by the most constrained construction be considered as the effect of that construction. If General Wilkinson actually formed a corrupt connection with the Spanish government, the repeated application made by him many years ago for an inquiry into his conduct, appear rather inexplicable especially as many of the witnesses of his guilt, if he was guilty, then lived to testify on that subject.
On the whole, the court thinks it proper to declare, that from a comparison of all the testimony, General Wilkinson, appears to have performed his various and complicated duties with zeal and fidelity and merits the approbation of his country. (Signed) P. Gansevoort, Brigadier General presiding."
This decision was reluctantly approved by Wilkinson's enemy, President Madison, on February 14th, 1812, a month and a half after rendition.
"But," says Mr. Gayarre, "newly discovered evidence warrants a rearraignment of General Wilkinson's memory at least before the bar of history."
It is an axiom in both civil and criminal law that to discover truth, trials should be prompt. The statute of limitation is of divine origin (15 Deuteronomy) and is based on that axiom. Similar documents to those that Gayarre cites, from both Governor Carondelet and Gayoso, were produced, examined and pronounced forgeries at Wilkinson's trial. The whole new evidence cited are similar letters, and copies of Wilkinson's letters deciphered, translated into another tongue, and then retranslated back into English.
When Wilkinson was tried, Gayoso and the Baron de Carondelet were both dead, and Miro had gone back to Spain. Whether in the deciphering of these letters, or their translations into Spanish, they were not added to, to justify the leeching process by which these Spanish officials magnified their own importance, and were ever bleeding the home government, I know not, and neither did Gayarre. The Americans were to the Spaniards then what the Gringos are to Mexicans today, and Gayarre certainly has vented much ill will against Wilkinson.
The first rule as to evidence to prove a fact is, that the witness produced must be a credible person. I have previously shown the misuse and waste by the Spanish Governors of funds of the colony of Louisiana, and even the "honest" Miro was charged with embezzlement after he left by the Spanish Intendant.
(See Gayarre Vol. 3).
Howard's History of the Purchase of Louisiana, says, p51, that in 1786 Governor Miro spent $300,000.00 in inflaming the Indians against the Americans. Miro undoubtedly shared in Wilkinson's p159 ventures. Gilberto Leonard, the Spanish Treasurer, was also interested as in his letter about the last payment to Wilkinson in 1796, for the condemned tobacco, which was the last money Wilkinson ever received from Spain, as shown clearly on his trial, he asked Wilkinson not to let it be known that he was so interested.
To show how prone the Spaniards were to fraud, when it was noised abroad in 1803 that Louisiana had been ceded to France and negotiations for its purchase were on by the United States, the Spanish rulers, knowing that private land titles would probably be respected, attempted to make a large number of antedated grants and back them by fictitious surveys.
In the American State Papers "Public Lands" Vol. 8, pp835‑6, the United States Commissioners adopted a report:
"That the frequency of these land grants at the close of the Spanish government furnishes strong evidence of fraud [. . .] These antedated concessions bear date in the most part in 1799 and 1800, for the purpose of covering up matters and preserving fair appearances."
It is not so long since in Louisiana that a law was passed against padding dead head pay rolls. It is a favorite device of the average ward politician to get money in elections for alleged pensionaires, which money he keeps for himself.
The French Prefect Laussat wrote home of Louisiana in 1803, "I will now proceed to show how justice is administered here, which is worse than in Turkey."
United States Consul Clark wrote to Washington in 1803: "All the officers plunder when the opportunity offers, they are all venal from the Governor down." (Howard's Purchase of Louisiana, p127).
Havana, Cuba, was the parent colony to which the Louisiana and Pensacola Colonies reported.
In the Ostend Manifesto of October 18th, 1854, the American Commissioners, James Buchanan, N. J. Mason and Pierre Soule, the latter at one time United States Senator from Louisiana, in recommending the purchase of Cuba said:
"The irresponsible agents sent by Spain to govern Cuba, [. . .] are tempted to improve the brief opportunity thus affordedº to accumulate fortunes by the basest means."
General Fitzhugh Lee in his History of Cuba's Struggle Against Spain, says (p100):
"The Spanish Governor who made the highest record at home was he who wrung from the Cuban the greatest amount of gold [. . .] (p107). "Arbitrary governors and swarms of officials, military and political, were always quartered on the people with the uniform hope of returning to Spain rich with the spoils of vice."
p160 General Lee says, (p118):
"While the Cubans were daily growing poorer the Spanish officials were increasing their private fortunes [. . .] The government offices in a short time became the property of the highest bidder." [. . .] Such was the corruption in the collection of duties that in 1887 the Havana Customhouse was cleared at the point of the bayonet by Captain General Marin."
A greater one than Wilkinson has said, "A tree is judged by its fruits." The Talmud says "deeds speak louder than words," and whether in the revolutionary war, the Indian wars, at Sabine River, Natchez, Mobile or New Orleans, Wilkinson in no single act every wavered in bravely doing his full duty by his country.
Wilkinson to the day of his death was comparatively poor. I saw only recently at Pointe-a‑la‑Hache the original of an act by which he bought a portion of the present Live Oak Grove Plantation, •25 miles below the city of New Orleans for fourteen hundred dollars, of which he paid only four hundred dollars in cash. This purchase was made from Dufour Freres on December 28th, 1818.
I again repeat that no fair or just man would convict an American General, who uniformly opposed them, on the unsworn and exparte statements of his Spanish enemies whom he uniformly opposed.
Wilkinson after his acquittal by this court martial was ordered to take charge of and place the defenses of the city of New Orleans in order, which he did.
Martin says, (p256):
"On the 12th of February 1813 Congress authorized the President of the United States to occupy and hold that part of West Florida lying west of the River Perdido not then in the possession of the United States. Orders for this purpose were sent to Wilkinson who immediately took measures with Commodore Shaw and the necessary equipment being made the forces employed in this service reached the vicinity of Fort Charlotte between the 7th and 8th of April having on their way dispossessed a Spanish guard on Dauphin Island and intercepted a Spanish transport having on board detachments of artillery with munitions of war. Don Gayetano Perez, who commanded in Fort Charlotte received the first information of Wilkinson's approach from his drums. The place was strong and well supplied with artillery but the garrison consisted of 150 effective men only and was destitute of provisions. Don Gayetano capitulated on the 13th. The garrison was sent to Pensacola. The artillery of the fort was retained; with part of it Wilkinson established a new fort at Mobile Point. He left Colonel Constant in charge of Fort Charlotte and round to New Orleans, which he left a few days after, being ordered to join the army on the frontiers of Canada."
On his way to Canada he stopped at Washington and conferred with Secretary of War Armstrong. His advice as to the projected campaign was rejected, and the plans of the War Department for an attack on Montreal wereº adopted.
p161 In the warº of 1812 the blame for the many failures of the American land forces has never been placed where it properly belongs, that is on the War Department of the Madison administration. The war of 1812 was most unpopular in the northern States. William J. Bryan was not more of a peace at any price leader, than was Thomas Jefferson, who permitted the army of the United States to shrink to 3,000 men, and as small as this force was, the arms, ammunition and general equipment under both Jefferson and Madison, were infinitely more meager. Twenty-nine years had elapsed between the end of the revolutionary war and the beginning of the war of 1812, and during this time both Jefferson and Madison had acted on the belief that eternal peace was the heritage of this country.
During twenty years of this time, the British were largely engaged against the greatest general the world had ever known, and both their army and navy had vastly improved. The raw recruits sent against the flower of the British veterans, in the war of 1812, were poorly drilled and trained and were worse equipped and led.
Secretary of War Armstrong, under President Madison, was utterly inefficient. Moreover the French, who had greatly helped the Americans in the revolutionary war and Spain and Holland that indirectly helped them were not our friends in 1812, and even if they had been, the battle of Waterloo had been in effect fought at Trafalgar, 10 years previous to the latter, the French fleets were destroyed, and England was then, as now, the mistress of the seas. I do not propose to describe General Hull's campaign, surrender and subsequent court martial and condemnation to be shot for cowardice; nor the unsuccessful campaigns of Generals Dearborn, Van Rensselaerº and Smyth; nor the cowardly and abject surrender of the city of Washington and the burning of the capitol there by the British, since these are matters of well known history. Nor do I propose to dwell at any length on how Wilkinson was ordered to go to Sacketts Harbor and take charge there of raw levies of undisciplined troops, with which he was subsequently to conduct a winter campaign in Canada. Canada is a far colder section than Valley Forge, where Washington had to seek winter quarters with his army. Winter overcame even Napoleon at Moscow. Wilkinson's army was largely sick, miserably equipped and with hardly any clothing, arms or food; the boats to transport them were insufficient and many of them unseaworthy; the army under General Wade Hampton also refused to join and cooperate with him, as they had originally been ordered to do, and owing to Secretary Armstrong's vacillating policy, they were not forced to obey this order. Added to all this Wilkinson, then p162 57 years old, had been for years fighting, marching, counter-marching and running boundaries, in the revolutionary war, in Indian campaigns and in the wilds and swamps of Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana, and his health had broken down, and he not only asked to be relieved of his command but his surgeon also testified to Secretary of War Armstrong that he was ill and there was a necessity of his being relieved, which was not done. Much of the time then Wilkinson was on a sick bed with the army, and the failure of his campaign was due as much to "the infantry of the snow and the cavalry of the wild blast" as to the failure of General Wade Hampton to cooperate with him, and his lack of supplies. In order to shift the responsibility of the failure of this campaign from the shoulders of his war secretary, charges were preferred by President Madison's orders involving inefficiency and drunkenness while on duty against Major General Wilkinson. After a trial before a court martial lasting nearly two months, on March 21st, 1815, Wilkinson was honorably acquitted on all charges, and President Madison approved the finding of the court martial.
One of these charges against Wilkinson was for drunkenness. In those days many leading men were hard drinkers and before studying the record I was under the impression that Wilkinson, like many Kentuckians, might have been too much addicted to liquor, but after reading the evidence taken on that court martial, which is carefully quoted verbatim in Wilkinson's Memoirs, 3rd Volume, I find that evidence completely disproved this charge, even his attending surgeon testifying that Wilkinson was then abstemious as to liquor and opposed to its use in the army, and the court martial, in its verdict specifically found he was not guilty of each and every charge, including the charge of drunkenness.
Wilkinson at the conclusion of the war in 1815 left the army and came to Louisiana, where he engaged in planting on the Mississippi river below New Orleans, and where his descendants, to the fourth generations, are still to be found. The same lure of the wild that called such Kentuckians as Wallace, Crockett, and Houston, to go over into Texas, tempted Wilkinson to go there himself at an earlier date, about 1823. Lands were to be had then for almost nothing in Texas and he went down to the City of Mexico, that had jurisdiction over Texas, to enter titles to certain of these lands. Like many men, who begin life young,º and endure many hardships, he had by that time worn out a naturally strong and rugged constitution, and falling sick died near the City of Mexico in 1825 at 68 years of p163 age. His grave is situated in the Baptist Cemetery in the City of Mexico.
It may be possible that Wilkinson, who seems to have been somewhat garrulous and sometimes quarrelsome, may have been reckless and indiscreet in his utterances. Edward IV, his remorse at a brother's murder is made to cry out, "He slew no man, his fault was thought, and yet his punishment was bitter death." Men are not usually condemned for what they think but what they do, and on what he did Wilkinson was an able and true soldier of the republic.
Wilkinson, while living, valued his reputation more than his life. From his scanty means he had published three large volumes in his own defense which are quoted as an authority of his times by a great many authors. The Roman centurion, when on trial, had a right to bare his breast and call on his judges to note the wounds he had suffered for his country's sake. Wilkinson is the only American officer that ever led the forces of this united country from the St. Lawrence to the Sabine River, and whether in the revolution, the Indian wars, or in his campaigns against Spain, he discharged his duties, as his court martial said, "with honor to himself and fidelity to his country."
If some of the writers who love to denounce him in their comfortable studies, could have endured all the hardships and exposures that Wilkinson did on his many campaigns, wars and explorations; if they had risked their lives, as often as he did, against Britain and Spanish enemies and in trackless wilds against the more cruel Indians, all in services and defense of their country and its people, they would not have been so willing to condemn him.
No public writer has given Wilkinson credit for the principal work of his life.
I have shown that he had hardly set foot in the west, before he began a comprehensive study of the Mississippi Valley. During his travels, by every means in his power, he was obtaining maps and information as to the west. Acting, under his instructions, Nolan, his agent, in his trips through West Louisiana and Texas, brought him maps of these sections. He was prior to 1800 repeatedly consulted as to the geography of the west by Jefferson's administration and by public men, Clark included.
Surveys in Georgia and Mississippi were made by him. Partly owing to his activities the Lewis and Clark surveys were begun in p164 1803, and continued long after, during his command of the department of the west. Professor Cox says:
"Wilkinson sent to Jefferson in 1804 a 22‑page memorial describing the country between the Mississippi and the Rio Grande accompanied by 22 maps."
American Historical Review, Vol. 19, p809 (Wilkinson to Dearborn July 13th, 1804, and enclosures).
"It is likely that this information caused the President to modify the instructions already issued to our envoys at Madrid, and to insist more strongly on our boundary claims, (same article).
(American State Papers foreign relations, 627 et seq.)
How wonderfully Spain benefited from such work!
In the last edition of the "expeditions of Zebulon M. Pike," by Elliot Coues, that author, Preface VI, says of the Lewis and Clark and Pike expeditions:
Both expeditions originated with the commander-in‑chief of the army (Wilkinson), both were as strictly military in method as in purpose."
All that Pike accomplished "was incidental to Wilkinson's main aim."
On July 30th, 1805, Zebulon M. Pike was detached for this service. The author adds:
"His selection for the duty by Wilkinson was the beginning of all his greatness."
These expeditions of a few men through boundless western wilds among hostile savages and Spaniards showed great courage. Wilkinson's son James was with Pike, and is the first American officer who ever traced the Arkansas river from its source. He reached New Orleans in time to see his mother, Mrs. Ann Wilkinson, the devoted wife of General Wilkinson, die there, February 23rd, 1807.
Pike acted under General Wilkinson and the orders to him from the latter show great skill in engineering and a good knowledge of astronomy. These orders led Pike too close to the Spanish possessions and he was arrested by the Spaniards and taken to Chihuahua,º where he arrived April 2nd, 1807. He was subsequently released. In his journal, he says, that he talked with Spaniards about the Sabine compromise of October, 1806, about which Wilkinson is attacked by Burr historians, some of whom have the temerity to claim that Wilkinson was bribed by Herrera:º
"Notwithstanding the vice roy's orders and the commandant General Gov. Cordero's, which were to attack the Americans Herrera had the temerity to enter into the agreement with General Wilkinson which at present exists relative to the boundaries of our frontier.
p165 On his return Herrera was received with coolness by his superiors. 'I experienced,' said Herrera, 'the most unhappy period of my life, conscious that I served my country faithfully though I had violated every principle of military duty.' " (Vol. 2, p703).
Above is an extract from Pike's diary written at a date shortly after the Sabine compromise.
These surveys of Wilkinson, of Lewis and Clark and of Pike were the first plans laid for the future great and of this country from the Alleghanies to the Pacific slope, and though in the capital at Washington the picture of "westward the star of Empire takes its way" attracts all visitors, the leader of the wise men who first followed that star in this country has been given no share of the credit for his great work.
But there is another reason why Wilkinson has the right to demand justice at the hands of his people. His only brother, Joseph Wilkinson, was a general in the revolutionary war; his son, my grand father, Joseph B. Wilkinson, was an officer in the navy and served under Bainbridge in the Mediterranean and under Perry in 1812 on the great lakes; his second son, James Wilkinson, was a captain in the United States army and the latter's son, Theophilus, was an artillery officer in that service; his grandson, Major Robert A. Wilkinson of the Confederate army, was killed at the second battle of Manassas; his great grandson, J. B. Penrose, was later killed in the same war; three other grandsons, including my eldest brother, Jos. B. Wilkinson, Jr., fought on the Sarmatia side; his eldest son, my grandfather, then nearly 80 years of age, and the latter's son, my father, were both put in prison by the Federals for aiding the South.
I remember a little over 44 years ago, when a lad, I was here charging Kellog'sº infantry entrenched in this very Cabildo, and two years later I was in the 14th of September fight of 1874. General Wilkinson's great great grandson, Lieutenant Theodore S. Wilkinson, Jr., of the United States Navy was some years ago the honor graduate at Annapolis and wears today a medal on his breast for a gallant charge in the recent capture of Vera Cruz.
For five generations Wilkinson and his descents have served and suffered for their country's sake and he, and they, deserve something better of that country than slander and calumny.
Wilkinson, like Sir John Moore, has answered the reveille of the great beyond and his dreamless dust rests in a far off land.
But for his country's sake, that he loved, for history's sake that honors truth, I present this imperfect contribution to the memory of an able soldier and a patriotic statesman.
We have witnessed your conduct at the time of Burr's conspiracy and the proceedings instituted by the District Court have opened our eyes to the treacherous aims of the conspirators, thanks to the energy and zeal that you displayed in the time of trouble, the inhabitants of New Orleans were saved from pillage and the United States from civil war.
Enemies have assailed you with malicious calumnies, that your actions have proved false. They have solicited and obtained from the government the institution of a court martial to prosecute an officer whose only crime was, to have resisted all temptation.
Disappointed to see that the decision of the tribunal has rendered homage to your honour assailed, and has turned on the accusers an eternal shame; those same people are trying today to influence public opinion in preaching in profusion all sorts of ridiculous and false anecdotes that they had published in detail in the Gazette pages.
Notwithstanding the proof given by the decision of the tribunal, that false publication, General, will receive the fate it deserves. It will be looked upon in this territory by all honest men as the monstrous fruit of madness and the last efforts of a foolish ambition that they have forever lost and that opinion will be shared by the citizens from the northern States when they will have learned of the infamous libel and when they see the uninterrupted confidence with which you have been honored by the virtuous Jefferson and his illustrious predecessors.
Please receive, General, the expression of esteem and gratitude of the corporation of New Orleans; be assured that in whatever circumstances it will please divine providence to place you, we will always take the deepest interest in your welfare and happiness.
Signed CHARS. THES. POREE.
President Pro tempore and the Members of the Council.
Oct. 4th, 1809.
Translated from the original on file in the Library of Louisiana State Museum.
a Horsefeathers: no "untruth" about it at all. Irishmen are not Englishmen, and if I'd been subject to English constraints on the practice of my religion as these men were, I too would have gone over to the Catholic Spaniards. Many Irishmen did.
b Myra Clark Gaines owed her celebrity to her parentage and consequent legal battles. The cogent summary of the latter found in this e‑mail by Elizabeth Alexander is of additional interest in that the writer did deliver on her project, mentioned in the e‑mail, to write a book on Myra Gaines — and Ms. Alexander's book, Notorious Woman: The Celebrated Case of Myra Clark Gaines (LSU Press, 2001), was promptly awarded several prizes.
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Defense of Wilkinson
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