Galvez was succeeded ad interim by Mirò, and Don Pedro Piernas took the place of Mirò as colonel of the regiment of Louisiana.
One of the first measures of Mirò's administration was one of charity. It is remarkable that leprosy, which is now so rare a disease, was then not an uncommon affliction in Louisiana. Those who were attacked with this loathsome infirmity generally congregated about New Orleans, where they obtained more abundant alms than in any other part of the colony. They naturally were objects of disgust and fear, and the unrestrained intercourse which they were permitted to have with the rest of the population was calculated to propagate the distemper. Ulloa had attempted to stop this evil, by confining some of the lepers at the Balize, but this measure had created great discontent and had been abandoned. Mirò now determined to act with more efficacy in this matter, and, on his recommendation, the cabildo, or council, caused a hospital to be erected for the reception of these unfortunate beings, in the rear of the city, on a ridge of land lying between the river Mississippi and bayou St. John. The ground they occupied was long known and designated under the appellation of La terre des Lépreux, or Lepers' Land. In the course of a few years, the number of these patients p168 gradually diminished, either by death or transportation, the disease disappeared almost entirely, the hospital went into decay, and Lepers' Land remained for a considerable length of time a wild looking spot, covered with brambles, briers, weeds, and a luxurious growth of palmettoes. It is, in our days, a part of suburb Trémé, and is embellished with houses and all the appliances of civilization.
Hardly had Mirò entered upon the duties of his office, when he was instructed to inquire into the official acts of one of his predecessors, Governor Unzaga, and to report thereon to his government. When an individual is called upon to discharge these functions, he receives the commission of what is termed in Spanish jurisprudence, a Juez de Residencia, or a Judge of Residence. According to the laws of Spain, this inquiry takes place into the official conduct of public functionaries, when they are removed by death or any other cause. It is made at the most important part of the district in which the late officer exercised his jurisdiction; and from the decision of the Judge of Residence there lies an appeal to the Council of the Indies. This law never had the salutary effects which were intended. The object of the legislator was apparent. Power, he thought, is liable to abuse, and great power is vested in all the officers of the Spanish monarchy, within the sphere, high or low, in which each is called to act. Let him know, therefore, that, as soon as he is stript of the power intrusted to his hands, there shall be a thorough investigation of all his acts, private or public; that every one shall have the right and the opportunity to accuse him fearlessly, even from malice, caprice, or envy; let him know that, whilst he is in the discharge of his functions, he is surrounded by the observing vigilance of a whole population, from the ranks of which numerous accusers and witnesses, p169 when he is rendered powerless, may start up to impugn his motives, to blacken his character, to arraign his acts, to bring into broad daylight every circumstance of his life, and to drag him like a culprit before the seat of Justice. This, no doubt, must be an effectual safeguard against his partiality, his cupidity, and his other passions. So schemed theory; but practice told a very different tale. The Judge of Residence could be bribed, intimidated, or otherwise influenced. If not, he found his inquiries generally baffled by the combined efforts of those who ought to have afforded him assistance. There is a sort of free-masonry and sympathetic alliance between all persons in office, which makes them opposed to seeing any one of them subjected to censure. They may quarrel together, but an esprit de corps will unite them against any censor that will presume to sit in judgment over any one of them. Thus, when a Spanish functionary went out of office, the Judge of Residence soon discovered that he was opposed by a league of all the other officers of the district in which had officiated the late incumbent, against whom no accuser presented himself, from the fear of having to struggle against the friends he had left behind him, or might have at court, from the unwillingness to incur the displeasure, and from many other considerations. Besides, not unfrequently, the officer, whose conduct was to be investigated, had been promoted to a more important office, and, although he might have been sent away to some distant part of the Spanish dominions, yet who would run the risk, except under extraordinary circumstances, of incurring the hatred and oppression of a man rising in power? Moreover, the Judge of Residence was himself, generally, a man of ambitious aspirations, and had been, or would be in some responsible office sooner or later, and had been, p170 or would be, on a day to come, subjected, in his turn, to a Judge of Residence. It is natural, therefore, that any one in that position should not have been disposed to give the dangerous example of much scrutiny and severity. Hence the law had become a dead letter, and the appointment of a Judge of Residence was, in most cases, a mere formality. It proved so on this occasion. No complaint was produced against Unzaga, whether there was any cause for any or not, and Mirò's decision, as a Judge of Residence, on his predecessor's administration, was all that could be desired by that functionary, or by his friends.
In this year, 1785, a census which was taken of the inhabitants of Louisiana gave the following results:
|Balize to the city,||2,100|
|At the Terre aux Boeufs,||576|
|Bayou St. John, and Gentilly,||678|
|Parish of St. Charles,||1,903|
|St. Joseph the Baptist,||1,300|
p171 This enumeration shows that the population had more than doubled since 1769, when it amounted only to 13,538. The number of free colored persons was about 1,100, and that of the slaves and whites was very near being equally divided. The expenses of the colony were between 400,000 and 500,000 dollars. The Governor had a salary of $10,000; that of the Intendant, $4,000, &c., &c.
The province received, this year, a very considerable accession of population, by the arrival of a number of Acadian families, who, at the expense of the King of France, and in consequence of an arrangement between the courts of Versailles and Madrid, came over to join such of their countrymen as had emigrated to Louisiana. They were granted lands, mostly on both sides of the Mississippi river, near Plaquemines. Some went to the settlement already existing on the Terre aux Boeufs; others established themselves on Bayou Lafourche, and the rest were scattered in the districts of Attakapas and Opeloussas.
It will be recollected that, in 1782, a royal schedule had been issued, which relaxed the restrictions imposed on the trade of the colony. The consequence of it had been, that the commerce of New Orleans had greatly revived, and a number of merchants from France had established themselves in that town. "The planters, however," says Judge Martin in his History, "regretted the time when British vessels plied on the Mississippi, stopping before every house, furnishing the farmer with whatever he wanted, accepting whatever the latter had to spare, and granting a credit almost unlimited in extent and duration. A number of agents had arrived from Jamaica, to collect debts due to merchants of that island, the recovery of which had been impeded during the war. As the trade these creditors had carried on p172 could not now be continued, they pressed for settlement and payment. In some cases, legal coercion was resorted to; but Mirò, with as much prudence as Unzaga on a similar occasion, exerted his influence to procure some respite for those who were really unable to comply with their engagements, and allowed a resort to the last extremity against those only whose bad faith appeared to require it. Instances are related, in which, unable to obtain a creditor's indulgence for an honest debtor, he satisfied the former out of his own purse."
Mirò exerted himself to obtain as much extension as possible for the commerce of the colony, and applied to the Court of Madrid to recommend its being fostered by more liberal regulations. In a despatch of the 15th of April, 1786, he said:
"In Louisiana, there are strong houses which would be able to carry on all its commerce, if they were not restrained by the want of capital, and by the depreciated paper money which the wants of the country require to be put in circulation. This cause prevents them from undertaking the least mercantile speculation which would be attended by much risk. It is, therefore, astonishing that, notwithstanding these adverse circumstances, there should be so much commercial activity on this river, where at least forty vessels are always to be seen at the same time. I say that the operations of the merchants are impeded by the want of capital, because, not having specie at their disposal, they are obliged to purchase the agricultural productions of the country with paper money, and, as the planter sells them his crop at a very high rate, proportioned to the depreciation of the paper offered in payment, they cannot operate any sale of those productions in the European market, without losing thirty or forty per cent, and frequently seventy. This has occasioned losses, which have destroyed the fortunes of many merchants, and hence p173 have originated the numerous creditors by whom some of them are harassed.
[. . .]
"Commerce is so necessary to the common prosperity of nations, that, without it, and without the relations which it establishes, man would not have arrived at that exalted degree of knowledge and civilization which he possesses; even the Indians, who are ignorant of the laws which regulate civil societies, feel the importance of exchanging the spoils of the chase, either for objects of absolute necessity, or for such articles of luxury as they are acquainted with.
[. . .]
"In order that this commerce with the Indians be advantageous, it is necessary, 1st, that it be carried on without interruption; 2d, that it be conducted with as much legality as possible; 3d, that the merchandise be sold at the most equitable price; 4th, that there be always a sufficient number of traders in the Indian villages; 5th, that it be permitted to all to go and trade freely with the Indian nations; 6th, that this commerce be subjected to no favoritism and to no monopoly.
"Should commerce be carried on with them without interruption, they will not think of resorting to any other nation than ours, and from the familiar intercourse which will be established between them and us, there will result friendly relations and ties of good fellowship, which these people are not incapable of forming.
"Besides, should there be established among them open shops, where they could sell their peltries, they would not think of visiting the capital, where they claim presents and rations which are a serious drain upon the Treasury.
"The trade with them must be conducted with the utmost legality, in order to inspire them with sentiments of honesty, which, otherwise, it would be difficult to p174 inculcate in them, because they are always disposed to follow the example of the whites, whose superiority they acknowledge.
"Nothing can be more proper than that the goods they want should be sold them at an equitable price, in order to afford them inducements and facilities for their hunting pursuits, and in order to put it within their means to clothe themselves on fair terms. Otherwise, they would prefer trading with the Americans, with whom they would, in the end, form alliances, which cannot but turn out to be fatal to this province.
"It is important that there should be no want of traders in the Indian villages, not only for obvious commercial purposes, but also to act as spies on the Indians, or to watch the movements of any intruder who might endeavor to pervert them.
"That this trade be open to all, is in accordance with the rights and privileges which are enjoyed by every subject of his Majesty; and to secure its continuation, it is necessary that it be not exclusive, as the Indians would be aware of the disadvantages they would suffer from a monopoly, because there is not a nation so ignorant as not to know, that it can derive no benefits from a commerce not open to competition. Our commerce with the Indians divides itself into two different branches, — the one, embracing all the Mississippi region, extending from New Orleans upwards, and the other radiating from Mobile and Pensacola, through all the country which is dependent on these two places. Those nations who are known under the appellation of Choctaws, Alibamons, Chickasaws, Creeks, Talapouches, and Apalaches, supply themselves at Mobile and Pensacola. Two cargoes, annually, of one hundred and seventy tons each, composed of effects worth sixty thousand dollars, at the European valuation, will be sufficient for Mobile; and p175 two similar cargoes, but worth only forty thousand dollars, will do for Pensacola. The profits derived from this trade may reach twenty-five per cent, provided the price of peltry should keep up in the European market.
"Should it be deemed absolutely necessary to maintain this commerce with the Indians, then the fundamental condition of it must be, that it be not shared, in the slightest degree, if possible, either by the English or French, and that the Indians should know no other traders than the Spaniards. But this must be the work of time."
The celebrated half breed, Alexander McGillivray, the most influential chief among the Talapouches,b had been allowed a share in the profits to be derived from the trade carried on at Pensacola, besides the pension of $600 a year, paid him by the Spanish Government. In connection with this circumstance, Navarro observes:
"So long as we shall have this chief on our side, we may rely on having established, between the Floridas and Georgia, a barrier which it will not be easy to break through. The Indians are now fully convinced of the ambition of the Americans; the recollection of past injuries still dwells on their minds, and, with it, the fear that these greedy neighbors may one day seize upon their lands, and strip them of a property to which they consider themselves as having a right derived from nature herself.1 It ought to be one of the chief points in the policy of this Government to keep this sentiment alive in their breasts.
"With regard to our Indian commerce on the Mississippi, p176 of which New Orleans is the centre, it is now much reduced, although it ought to be the most lucrative of all, because it embraces some of the nations in the province of Texas, and all those of the Arkansas and Illinois districts.
"In relation to Texas, our trade is of very little consequence, on account of the risks with which it is attended. It would much improve, if we could secure peace with the Comanches. Until then, the goods wanted for that trade will not require more than an annual outlay of six thousand dollars.
"The commerce in the district of the Arkansas is subjected to inconveniences of the like nature, and exposes the traders to no little danger on account of the incursions of the Osages.
"The commerce with the Illinois is the easiest, yet it is of very little importance, because the English, who are in possession of Michilimakinac, •three hundred leagues above, introduce themselves with the greatest facility into our possessions, and seize on the richest portion of the trade by forestalling the peltries of the finest quality. We are compelled to be mere lookers-on, when others do what we ought to do ourselves, and we have to undergo the vexation of seeing the trade, which ought to come down the Mississippi, elude our grasp and take the St. Lawrence for its channel. They have also possessed themselves of the trade with all the nations on the river Aux Moines, which is •eighty leagues above St. Louis, and within the jurisdiction and dependence of the Illinois district. There beavers and otters are to be found in the greatest abundance."
Then Navarro goes on enumerating the remedies he recommends to obviate these evils, and which, if adopted, would, he says:
"cause to fall into Spanish hands the manna offered by the trade with the Indians, which is a p177 casket of wealth, of which others have the use, although we hold its key.2 The treasures of that mine would then find their way into the coffers of our nation, and our enemies would not wrest from us the bread which should help to our sustenance,3 and forty thousand dollars a year would be sufficient to supply all the wants of that trade."
Navarro concludes his despatch with these reflections:
"If the province of Louisiana is intended to serve as a barrier against the Americans, it cannot answer this purpose without a considerable increase of its population, and it can acquire the numerous population of which it is susceptible, only through commerce and agriculture. The one requires protection, the other assistance. The former cannot prosper without freedom and unlimited expansion; the latter cannot succeed without laborers. Both are necessary to supply the means of paying expenses of the colony, to secure the possessions and the rights of the sovereign, and to make his power and arms respectable.4 These are all my views on this matter."
The whole of this document, of which I have only given a few extracts and the condensed spirit, is replete with good sense and liberality, and is a strong proof of Navarro's distinguished qualifications.
On the 5th of April, 1786, the king issued a royal order, by which he approved the conduct of Mirò, who, in the preceding year, had granted, in the districts of Baton Rouge and Natchez, which had been conquered by the Spaniards, some indulgence and extension of time to the British subjects, in relation to their selling their p178 property, collecting their debts, and removing away their persons and effects. The king declared his will that permission to remain be granted to such of them as might desire it, provided they took an oath of allegiance and fidelity to him, and promised not to move out of their respective districts without the permission of the governor. "Those who neglected to take the oath," says Judge Martin in his History of Louisiana, "were to depart by sea for some of the colonies of North America; and if they were unable to defray the expenses of the voyage, it was to be paid by the king, who was to be reimbursed, as far as possible, by the sale of their property.
"The king further ordered that, at Natchez and other places where it might be done conveniently, parishes be formed, and put under the direction of Irish clergymen, in order to bring over the inhabitants and their families to the Catholic faith, by the mildness and persuasion it recommends. For this purpose, the king wrote to the Bishop of Salamanca to choose four priests, natives of Ireland, of approved zeal, virtue and learning, from among those of his university, to be sent to Louisiana at the king's expense.
"Mirò, on whom the provisional government had devolved on the departure of galvez, now received a commission of governor, civil and military, of Louisiana and West Florida, and issued his Bando de buen gobierno, on the 2d of June.
"A Bando de buen gobierno is a proclamation, which the governor of a Spanish colony generally issues on assuming its government, to make known the principles by which he intends to direct his conduct, and to introduce necessary alterations in the ordinances of police.
"In this document, Mirò begins by stating that religion being the object of the wise laws of Spain, that a p179 reverent demeanor in church being a consequence of it, and that the bishop having lately published an edict with regard to the respect and devotion with which the faithful are to attend the celebration of the holy mysteries, the proceedings of the vicar-general against delinquents will receive every necessary aid from the government. Working on the Sabbath and other holy festivals is prohibited, except in cases of necessity, without the license of the vicar. He forbids also the doors of shops or stores being kept open during the hours of divine service, and the dances of slaves on the public squares on those days, before the close of the evening service.
"He declares his intention to proceed with severity against all persons living in concubinage. He observes, that the idleness of free negro, mulatto, and quarteroon women, resulting from their dependence for a livelihood on incontinence and libertinism, will not be tolerated. He recommends them to renounce their mode of living, and to betake themselves to honest labor; and declares his determination to have those who neglect his recommendation sent out of the province, warning them that he will consider their excessive attention to dress, as an evidence of their misconduct.
"He complains that the distinction which had been established in the head-dress of females of color is disregarded, and urges that it is useful to enforce it; he forbids them to wear thereon any plumes or jewelry, and directs them to have their hair bound in a kerchief.
"He announces that the laws against gambling and duelling, and against those who carry about their persons dirks, pistols, and other weapons, shall be rigorously enforced.
"The nightly assemblages of people of color are prohibited.
"Persons coming in, by land or water, are to present themselves to the Government House.
"Those who harbor convicts, or deserters from the land or naval service, are to be punished.
"Any large concourse of people without the government's consent is inhibited.º
"None are to walk out at night without urgent necessity, and not then without a light.
"No house or apartment is to be rented to a slave.
"Tavern-keepers are to shut their houses at regular hours, and not to sell spirituous liquors to Indians, soldiers, or slaves.
"Purchases from soldiers, Indians, convicts, or slaves are prohibited.
"Regulations are made to prevent forestalling, to hinder hogs from running at large in the streets, to restrain the keeping of too great a number of dogs, and to secure the removal of dead animals.
"Measures are taken to guard against conflagrations, to drain the streets, and to keep the landing on the Levee unobstructed.
"Verbal sales of slaves are forbidden."
According to one of Mirò's despatches, the revenue resulting from the import and export duties at New Orleans amounted, this year, to 585,063 reales de plata, that is about $72,000.
In the beginning of 1787, the districts of Opeloussas and Atakapas, which, on account of the thinness of their population, had, so far, been intrusted to the care of one officer, had become so considerable, that it was deemed expedient to divide them into two separate commands. Nicholas Forstall was appointed commander of the p181 Opeloussas district, and the Chevalier de Clouet, who had before presided over both, was left in charge of Atakapas.
It may not have been forgotten, that the king had requested the Bishop of Salamanca to choose from the Seminary of that town four Irish priests, who were to be sent to Louisiana, and who were to settle among the Protestant and Anglo-Saxon subjects of his Majesty, in the hope, no doubt, of converting them to the Catholic faith. These priests arrived in 1787, and were established at Baton Rouge, Natchez, and other posts in the territory conquered over Great Britain by Galvez.
At that time, Spain began to look with earnest solicitude at the growing power which, under the appellation of the United States of America, had taken its rank among the nations of the earth, and the western settlements of which had come into collision with those of the Spaniards in Florida and Louisiana. Thus the State of Georgia claimed an immense territory on the east side of the Mississippi, from Loftus heights northward, for several hundred miles, which region was in the possession of Spain, with a population estimated at about ten thousand souls. Georgia had sent commissioners to New Orleans in the autumn of 1785, demanding the surrender of that territory and the recognition of the line stipulated in the treaty of 1783. The Spanish authorities of Louisiana had denied having any power to act on the subject, which was properly referred by the respective parties to the governments of Spain and of the United States.
Besides, the Mississippi was the natural outlet for the commerce of the American people in the western settlements, and that commerce was pouring down upon New Orleans, as it were with the waves of that mighty river. The duties which were collected by the Spanish authorities were considered as oppressive and unjust. The p182 sturdy flat-boatmen of Ohio and Kentucky, on their return home, had always a long list of seizures, confiscations, fines, imprisonments, extortions, or vexatious delays to publish, and those tales, which probably in many cases were exaggerated, kept in constant agitation a population, who considered that they derived from nature itself a right to the free navigation of the Mississippi. It was the highway to the sea given them by God, and they were determined to have it. Hence the excitement went up to such a degree, that an open invasion of Louisiana was talked of, and a forcible seizure of New Orleans contemplated. But before resorting to these extreme measures, the patriotic yeomanry of the West had applied to Congress, and urged upon that body the necessity of obtaining from Spain by negotiation, at least such commercial privileges as were indispensable to the very existence of the western settlements. These were circumstances of sufficient importance to secure the most vigilant attention, on the part of the Spanish functionaries at New Orleans.
Thus, on the 12th of February, 1787, Navarro, the Intendant, wrote to his government:
"The powerful enemies we have to fear in this province are not the English, but the Americans, whom we must oppose by active and sufficient measures. It is not enough to have granted Louisiana a restricted commerce for ten years; it is indispensable to use other resources. It is of little importance that her productions should go to France or anywhere else, if we are incapable of turning them to our profit. When we cannot supply her with articles manufactured by ourselves, it is of no consequence if her wants in that respect are satisfied by other nations, provided this toleration contributes, as it does, to the daily increase of the white and black population of this colony, extends commerce, quickens industry, spreads the domain p183 of agriculture, and gives rise to a state of things, which, in a few years, will be productive of considerable sums to the king. Without this toleration, and without the commercial franchises granted by the royal schedule of the 22d of January, 1782, this country would have been a desert, when it is calculated to become one of the most important portions of America.
"There is no time to be lost. Mexico is on the other side of the Mississippi, in the vicinity of the already formidable establishments of the Americans. The only way to check them is with a proportionate population, and it is not by imposing commercial restrictions that this population is to be acquired, but by granting a prudent expansion and freedom of trade.5
"I address your Excellency from the fulness of the patriotic spirit with which I am animated. I have no other object in view than the interest of my sovereign. I consider the province of Louisiana as a portion of his royal domain, and I wish that I could, with every power of reasoning which I may possess, succeed in demonstrating the necessity of developing the strength and vitality of this province, because, from every one of those innumerable settlements which command us from their natural position, I see clouds rising and threatening us with a storm that will soon burst upon this province, and the damage would be still greater, if unfortunately the inundation extended itself to the territories of New Spain."6
p184 In the month of March, Governor Mirò, in a despatch to the Marquis of La Sonora,7 secretary of state, and president of the council of the Indies, commented with much earnestness on the defenceless state of the colony, and represented the Plaquemine Turn as the best spot to be fortified. He sent the estimate of the expenses which would be required for the erection of some batteries and a small fort at that locality, and which the engineers had put down at $37,000.
In consequence of the treaties of alliance and commerce concluded with the Indians at Mobile and Pensacola, in 1784, and in order to carry them into execution, and supply them with the objects of trade which were necessary to their wants, commercial privileges had been conceded to William Panton at Pensacola, and to James Mather at Mobile, who, in consideration of these privileges, had stipulated with the Spanish government to satisfy the Indians. But the goods which were to the taste of these people, and which could be procured with more ease than any other, were to be obtained in England only, and therefore the ships of these two merchants had been permitted, as an exception, to resort to the port of London. The Spanish government, however, soon took umbrage at the liberties which it had granted, and in August, 1786, they had been considerably curtailed or impeded by a royal decree. Panton and Mather remonstrated with vivacity, and represented that, if those restrictions were not repealed, they would remove themselves, their families and their effects to some other more favored spot than were Pensacola and Mobile under the pernicious influence of the unwise regulations of Spanish policy. On the 24th of March, Governor p185 Mirò, and the Intendant Navarro, in a joint despatch, backed the reclamations of Panton and Mather, and commented at length on the importance of conciliating the Indians, and of keeping up with them as extensive a trade as possible, at a time when they were in arms to defend their territories against the encroachments of American ambition.
Alive to the policy of increasing the population of Louisiana, Governor Mirò somewhat relaxed the restrictions upon the river trade, reduced the transit duties, and encouraged emigration from the west to the Spanish possessions on the Mississippi, particularly to the parishes of West Florida. He therefore granted permission to a number of American families to settle in Louisiana, and to introduce the utensils, effects and provisions of which they might stand in need, except brandy and sugar, on their paying a duty of six per cent. Desirous of ascertaining the number of Acadians who had settled in Louisiana, he ordered a census of them to be made, and itº was found that, in 1787, that population amounted to 1,587 souls.
The province of Louisiana would soon have become a desert, if it had been limited to trading with Spain only, and if the Spanish restrictions on its commerce had been strictly enforced; but the colonial government had winked at its infractions, and, for some time, a lucrative trade had been carried on, not only on the Mississippi, but also, and principally, with the city of Philadelphia. Gardoqui, the Spanish minister sent to the United States, had himself connived at it; suddenly, however, either from the corrupt motives attributed to him, or from whatever other cause, he reprimanded Navarro with extreme severity on the infractions of the laws of Spain, added that he had informed his court of these facts, and forced the Intendant to proceed to the harshest p186 measures against such delinquencies. This produced a crisis by which the colony was greatly distressed, and a great portion of the population was reduced to such extremities, that the Intendant informed his government, on the 10th of October, 1787, that he had assumed the responsibility of continuing to the Acadians, for two months more, their rations, which were to have been suspended. The annual donations in money, provisions and other articles to the Acadians, the Isleños, or emigrants from the Canary Islands, and to the Indians, were a heavy drain on the Spanish treasury, for they amounted to 1,733,381 reales de plata, or about $173,338. To this is to be added a debt of $760,779, which the Spanish government had contracted in Louisiana during the war against the English, and which remained to be paid. It is not astonishing therefore that Navarro, in a despatch of the 19th of December, 1787, addressed to Valdès, the successor of the Marquis de la Sonora, should have made an energetic description of the misery which prevailed in the colony. He represented that there was a complete stagnation of affairs; that there were no sales of any kind; that foreigners and particularly the European French had ceased to make any investments, as formerly, on real estates, which now could not be disposed of, even for a mere nominal price, and that commerce, agriculture, and every branch of industry was completely withered and destroyed.
"It is certain," said he, "that this province requires different regulations from those which his gracious Majesty has established for his other possessions in America, and that to submit Louisiana to the same regimen is to operate her ruin. Every one of the Spanish colonies has its peculiar productions and a commerce incidental thereto. Is it not probable that, to subject them to the same uniform system, is to clip the wings p187 of progress?8 The peculiar position of Louisiana ought to exclude her from the application of that system of uniformity. I have been serving his Majesty in the colony for about twenty-two years, not without prejudice to my health. During all this time, I have not ceased to observe the various changes and vicissitudes which have been fatal to its prosperity, and I have never omitted to mention them to the government, not however without the constant appreciation of their not being attended to, on account of the little importance of the individual who framed these representations.
"The commercial franchises which his Majesty had granted in his schedule of the 22d of January, 1782, and the latitudinarian extension which was given to them, were sufficiently powerful to impart to this colony the development which it needs. But there soon intervened certain restrictions, which are diametrically opposed to the concessions made, and which a subaltern officer cannot disregard without exposing himself to disapprobation and disgrace.
"Thus the permission which had been given to purchase negroes from the colonies of our allies and of neutrals, and to introduce them here, after having paid for them, either with our productions, or with money, on which was to be levied an export duty of 6 per cent only, was a proof of his Majesty's solicitude and predilection for Louisiana. But there presents itself a difficulty, which destroys all the graciousness of the grant: for instance, the law 30, tit. 27, lib. 9, de la Recopilacion de Indias decrees, that no foreigner shall be permitted to sell on credit in the Indies any object of commerce. If this law is to be extended to Louisiana, it follows as a p188 natural consequence, that the importation of negroes must cease, and, from that moment, we must expect that this colony, which promises to become one of the most considerable in America, is soon to be the poorest and the most miserable.
"Nobody doubts but that the wealthiest nations consider credit as the tutelar deity of commerce, and that all, without a solitary exception, skilfully avail themselves of it, to execute their designs and secure the progressive development of their resources, and that the most prosperous is the one which has the most of it. It is notorious that there are no commercial enterprises which do not rest mainly on credit, and that, if it were required that they should be carried on with specie and cash payments only, mercantile speculations would be extremely rare. In such matters reputation is wealth, honesty is security, and this is the current coin which facilitates the most important operations of commerce. Without these powerful auxiliaries, a country which should be in want of capital, would have no means of progressing, and would eternally remain in its beggarly condition, should it be prohibited by legislation from having recourse to credit.
"Louisiana is, in appearance, greatly protected, but she is not so in reality, and she is far from being ranked among the provinces that are rich, and if even those cannot trade without credit, how can it be done by this one, which is in its cradle and swaddling clothes?
"Relying on the good faith of the colony, the merchant uses credit to buy negroes in the islands of friendly powers, sells them here on a credit of one year or more; and this course benefits him, and enriches the planter by giving him hands with which he can increase his crops and procure his means of payment; and agriculture, p189 being thus fostered, secures to the king an augmentation of revenue in proportion to that of the province. These are the effects of credit."
Navarro then goes on analysing the causes of the decline of the colony, and pointing out every commercial restriction to which he attributes it, and, among these causes, he mentions the apprehensions which are produced by the threats of the Americans. He concludes with enumerating the means which are calculated to people the country and make it satisfied with its government.
"It is necessary," said he, "to keep in mind that, between this province and the territories of New Spain, there is nothing but the feeble barrier of the Mississippi, which it is as easy to pass as it is impossible to protect, and that, if it be good policy to fortify this province by drawing a large population within its limits, there are no other means than that of granting certain franchises to commerce, leaving aside, as much as possible, all restrictions and shackles, or at least postponing them to a future time, if they must exist. In addition, the government must distinguish itself by the equity of its administration, the suavity of its relations with the people, and the disinterestedness of its officers in their dealings with the foreigners who may resort to the colony. This is the only way to form, in a short time, a solid rampart for the protection of the kingdom of Mexico.
"It is an incontestable axiom, that every remedy ought to be proportioned to the evil to which it is to be applied; and the danger which threatens us from the proximity of the Americans is of such a nature, that it will soon be too late to ward it off, if we do not now guard against it by the most efficacious measures. Even if the territory of New Spain should never be the object p190 of the ambition of the Americans, they ought to be for us a cause of constant distrust and apprehension, because they are not unaware that the river de Arcas is not distant from New Mexico, and that there are mines in the Ouachita district. These are powerful motives for a nation restless, poor, ambitious and capable of the most daring enterprises."9
It is evident that the Intendant Navarro was not deficient in perspicacity, and that the distinguishing traits of the American character had soon made themselves known to the rulers of Louisiana.
The province had, in this year 1787, produced a sufficient quantity of corn, rice, and other grains for its home consumption, but it had made only half a crop of indigo, which was the chief staple of the colony. To increase the distress of the colonists, the summer was marked by fevers, which frequently and easily assumed a malignant type. There was also an epidemic catarrh, from which few were exempt, and by which many were seriously incommoded. The small pox infested the whole province, and those whom fear prevented from being inoculated became the victims of their prejudices. All those who were attacked by the contagion, either died, or were dangerously sick. The inoculation was fatal only to very few, but this was enough to confirm in their systematic opposition those who declaimed against this wise and humane practice. This disease had struck such terror into the Acadian families, that, when one of their members was attacked by the disease, they used to abandon him to solitude and to his fate, leaving him to his own resources, but supplying him with all the provisions and other articles they supposed he would need, although breaking off all communication with him, and thereby depriving him of their assistance. Some of p191 them, however, who were established in Feliciana, and who numbered eighty persons of both sexes and of all ages, had the fortitude to have themselves inoculated, and not one of them had cause to repent having taken that determination.10
Always haunted by the fear of their restless neighbors, the Spaniards spared no means to conciliate the Indians, in order to interpose them between themselves and the objects of their apprehension, and succeeded in drawing to New Orleans thirty-six of the most influential chiefs of the Choctaws and Chickasaws, whom they cajoled and feasted, and whose friendship and alliance they secured. Governor Mirò received them with great pomp, gave them rich presents, harangued them, smoked the pipe with them, and made a liberal distribution of medals and collars. But the regent of the Chickasaws (the king being a minor) would not permit himself to be decorated with a medal, saying that such insignia might be honor-conferring distinctions for his warriors and the inferior classes of his people, but that, with regard to himself, he was sufficiently distinguished by his blood and birth, and that to act as the friend and ally of the Spaniards, and to acknowledge himself the son of the Great Father, who was on the other side of the water, meaning the king of Spain, it was sufficient that he should have received his banner and his presents; "which is a manifest proof," wrote Navarro, "of the existence of the pride and point of honor, observable even among the barbarous and uncivilized nations." The Governor took them to a public ball, with which they seemed to be delighted, expressing the belief that all the beautiful ladies present were sisters, and had p192 fallen from heaven.11 The Governor also entertained them with a military parade and field manoeuvres, which they surveyed with much attention and with demonstrations of pleasure. Finally they were fully won over by such arts, and they returned to their villages with Spanish hearts. Impressed with this flattering conviction, Navarro wrote to his government: "All these nations are entirely devoted to us, and I can also safely affirm, that the Americans will not gain much ground with them."12 This boasted friendship of the Indians was not without being felt by the Spanish treasury, and it appears, from an account rendered on the 5th of January, 1788, that the amount of the sums spent in presents to the Indians, from 1779 to 1787 inclusive, rose up to about $300,000.
It is in 1787, that the History of Louisiana becomes connected in a remarkable manner with that of the United States, by the formation of a great scheme, the object of which was the dismemberment of the confederacy so lately established. The first Federal Union, which was conceived under the pressure of circumstances admitting of no delay, was weak in the very bones and marrow of its organization, and, although it had carried the United States triumphantly through the war of independence, it was inadequate to the ultimate purposes which it had in view, and was threatened with dissolution on account of its inherent imperfections. The western people, particularly, were exceedingly dissatisfied. They were then separated from the Atlantic states by an immense distance, by the intervening barrier of a wilderness p193 and high mountains, by a difference of pursuits, of habits, and interests, and they felt less than any other portion of the United States the force of those ties which bound them together, and the necessity of that union. They had repeatedly laid their grievances and wrongs before the general government, and obtained no redress. They had in vain petitioned Congress to secure for them the free use of the Mississippi, without which it was useless for them to till the ground, since they had no market for their produce. The growing population of that newly settled region became intensely excited, and the bold and sturdy yeomen of the West determined to take their case into their own hands. But if they were unanimous as to that, they were divided as to the means of accomplishing their object, and they had even split into five different parties.
"The first (Judge Martin's History, vol. II, p101) was for being independent of the United States, and for the formation of a new republic, unconnected with the old one, and resting on a basis of its own, and a close alliance with Spain.
"Another party was willing that the country should become a part of the province of Louisiana, and submit to the admission of the laws of Spain.
"A third desired war with Spain and the seizure of New Orleans.
"A fourth plan was to prevail on Congress, by a show of preparation for war, to extort from the Cabinet of Madrid what it persisted in refusing.
"The last, as unnatural as the second, was to solicit France to procure a retrocession of Louisiana, and to extend her protection to Kentucky."
Well informed of the condition of things then existing, Governor Mirò, in Louisiana, and the Spanish Minister, Gardoqui, at Philadelphia, were both pursuing the same p194 object, which was — to draw to Louisiana as much of this western population as could be induced to emigrate, and even to operate, if possible, a dismemberment of the confederacy, by the secession of Kentucky and of the other discontented districts from the rest of the United States. Both these Spanish functionaries were partners in the same game, and yet they were unwilling to communicate to each other the cards they had in hand. Each one was bent upon his own plan, and taking care to conceal it from the other; each one had his own secret agents unknown to the colleague whom he ought to have called to his assistance. There was a want of concert, arising perhaps from jealousy, from the lack of confidence, from ambition, from the desire of engrossing all the praise and reward in case of success, or from some other cause. Be it what it may, the consequence was, that the schemes of these two men frequently counteracted each other, and resulted in a series of measures which were at variance and contradictory, and which seemed inexplicable to him who had not the key to what was going on behind the curtain.º
Among the most influential and popular men in the west, through whose co‑operation Mirò hoped to accomplish his object, was General James Wilkinson,c who had already acquired considerable reputation in the military service of the United States, and who had lately emigrated to that section of the country. This individual had some friends among the merchants of New Orleans, with whom he corresponded, and on whose influence with the Spanish Colonial government, backed by his own talents, address and management, he confidently relied in his hope to be able to open a lucrative trade between that town and the western country, which trade would be exclusively conducted by or through himself, and would thus secure to him a rapid and large fortune. p195 General Wilkinson had therefore descended to New Orleans, in the garb of a merchant and speculator, with a cargo of tobacco, flour, butter and bacon. Orders had been issued to seize and confiscate the boat and its load, when Wilkinson, having had an interview the Governor Mirò, was permitted to sell his cargo without paying any duty. Several other interviews followed, and Wilkinson was hospitably feasted by the Spanish Governor, who became every day more friendly and condescending, and who granted to his guest permission to introduce into Louisiana, free of duty, many western articles of trade which were adapted to its market. Wilkinson remained in New Orleans during the months of June, July, and August, and sailed in September for Philadelphia. Many wondered at the intimacy which had grown up, during this time, between Mirò and Wilkinson, and sly hints and insinuations were thrown out as to its nature and tendency.
"While Colonel Wilkinson was in New Orleans, in June, 1787," says Butler in his History of Kentucky, "Governor Mirò requested him to give his sentiments freely in writing, respecting the political interests of Spain and the inhabitants of the United States dwelling in the regions upon the western waters. This he did at length in a document of fifteen or twenty pages, which the Governor transmitted to Madrid, to be laid before the King of Spain. In this document he urges the natural right of the western people to follow the current of the rivers flowing through their country to the sea. He states the extent of the country, the richness of the soil, abounding in choice productions, proper for foreign markets, to which they have no means of conveying them should the Mississippi be shut against them. He sets forth the advantages which Spain might derive from p196 allowing them the free use of the river. He proceeds to show the rapid increase of population in the western country, and the eagerness with which every individual looked forward to the navigation of that river. He describes the general abhorrence with which they received the intelligence that Congress was about to sacrifice their dearest interest by ceding to Spain, for twenty years, the navigation of the Mississippi; and represents it as a fact that they are on the point of separating themselves entirely from the Union, on that account. He addresses himself to the Governor's fears by an ominous display of their strength, and argues the impolicy of Spain in being so blind to her own interest as to refuse them an amicable participation in the navigation of the river, thereby forcing them into violent measures. He assures the Spanish Governor that, in case of such alternative, "Great Britain stands ready, with expanded arms, to receive them," and to assist their efforts to accomplish that object, and quotes a conversation with a member of the British parliament to that effect. He states the facility with which the province of Louisiana might be invaded by the united forces to English and the Americans, the former advancing from Canada by the way of the Illinois river, and the latter by way of the Ohio river; also, the practicability of proceeding from Louisiana to Mexico, in a march of twenty days; that in case of such invasion, Great Britain will aim at the possession of Louisiana and New Orleans, and leave the navigation of the river free to the Americans. He urges forcibly the danger of the Spanish interests in North America, with Great Britain in possession of the Mississippi, as she was already in possession of the St. Lawrence and the great lakes. He concludes with an apology for the freedom with which he had expressed p197 his views by the Governor's particular request; that such as they are, they are from a man whose head may err, but whose heart cannot deceive."
So much for Wilkinson's ostensible doings. But it leaked out at the time and passed current among those who pretended to be well informed, that Wilkinson had delivered to the Spanish Governor a memorial containing other representations which were kept from the public eye.
In the mean time, Gardoqui, the Spanish minister at Philadelphia, was acting in conformity with his cherished plan of fomenting emigration from the American settlements into Louisiana, and one of his chief agents was an individual named Pierre Wower d'Argès. For this purpose, he, with the authorization of his court, invited the people of Kentucky and those who dwelt on the Cumberland river to establish themselves in West Florida and the Florida district of Lower Louisiana, under the protection of Spain, and he made them liberal grants of land, conceding them also considerable privileges and favors. The Americans who should settle in Louisiana were to be permitted to introduce slaves, stock, provisions for two years, farming utensils and implements, without paying any duty whatever, and, as to any other kind of property, it might be imported and offered for sale, on paying a duty of 25 per cent. They were also promised the free use of their religion. These conditions proved sufficient allurements for many Americans, who, with their families, removed to Louisiana and became Spanish subjects. Colonel George Morgan, who had proposed to lead a large number of emigrants, had obtained from Gardoqui the concession of a vast tract of land •about seventy miles below the mouth of the Ohio, on which he subsequently laid the foundation of a p198 city, which he called New Madrid, in compliment to the Spaniards.
Pierre Wower d'Argès had arrived at New Orleans, and applied to Mirò for support of Gardoqui's views and plans. Mirò, who found them not agreeing with his own, was greatly mortified, and, in a despatch which he addressed, on the 8th of January, 1788, to Valdès, the minister and secretary of state for the department of the Indies, said: "I fear that they may clash with Wilkinson's principal object, as I shall attempt to demonstrate by the following observations. In the first place, D'Argès having presented himself here with very little prudence and concealment, it may turn out that Wilkinson, in Kentucky, being made aware of the mission of this agent, may think that we are not sincere, and that, endeavoring to realize his project without him, we use him merely as a tool to facilitate the operations of D'Argès. Under this impression, and under the belief that D'Argès may reap the whole credit of the undertaking in case of success, it may happen that he will counteract them; for this reason, I have been reflecting for many days, whether it would not be proper to communicate to D'Argès Wilkinson's plans, and to Wilkinson the mission of D'Argès, in order to unite them and to dispose them to work in concert. But I dare not do so,13 because D'Argès may consider that the great projects of Wilkinson may destroy the merit of his own, and he may communicate them to some one, who might cause Wilkinson to be arrested as a criminal, and also because p199 Wilkinson may take offence at another being admitted to participate in confidential proceedings, upon which depend his life and honor, as he expresses himself in his memorial.14 Being precluded by these reasons from opening myself on the subject with D'Argès, I thought that I was bound to be equally discreet with Wilkinson, until I knew what are the intentions of his Majesty with regard to the latter.
[. . .]
"The delivering up of Kentucky unto his Majesty's hands, which is the main object to which Wilkinson has promised to devote himself entirely, would for ever constitute this province a rampart for the protection of New Spain. Hence I consider as a misfortune the project of D'Argès, because I look upon the commercial franchises which he has obtained for the western colonists, and the permission given to the people to introduce any kind of articles into Louisiana, on their paying a duty of twenty-five per cent, as destructive of the great design which has been conceived.
"The western people would no longer have any inducement to emigrate, if they were put in possession of a free trade with us. This is the reason why this privilege should be granted only to a few individuals having influence among them, as is suggested in Wilkinson's memorial, because on their seeing the advantages bestowed on these few, they might be easily persuaded to acquire the like by becoming Spanish subjects."
Mirò also objected to the imposition of the duty of twenty-five per cent on certain articles to be introduced by the American settlers in Louisiana, because he said that, if Wilkinson was to be believed, Great Britain p200 made them much more liberal propositions, with which those of Spain would not compare advantageously. With regard to the religious toleration granted by Gardoqui, Mirò observed that it was too extensive. "It will be sufficient," said he, "to promise the emigrants that they shall not be forced to become Catholics, because, if they are told that their religion is to be tolerated, they will infer that they are permitted to practise it freely, which would authorize them to take along with them their ministers, whose absence would, on the contrary, favor the frequent conversions which the Irish priests would make, and which, otherwise, would be much more difficult. I can conceive of but one case which would justify granting to those people the free exercise of their religion — that is, if Kentucky could not be prevailed upon to give herself up to His Majesty without this condition.
"Your Excellency informs me that the agent D'Argès will give it to be understood in Kentucky with dexterity and prudence, without committing himself at all, that, until the question of boundaries be definitively settled, the Spanish government will permit those inhabitants and colonists to send down their produce to New Orleans, &c. and Your Excellency goes on saying, that there are good grounds for expecting that many merchants in Spain and even in Havana will come to this port to enjoy this lucrative commerce, particularly if the franchises hitherto granted to foreigners were curtailed. This part of Your Excellency's communication obliges me to represent, on the strength of the knowledge which I have of this province, that its prosperity would be immediately checked, if the slightest restrictive alteration were added to the royal schedule of the 22d of January, 1782, which allows the colonists to supply their wants from France and its colonies, and that the greater the number of emigrants we shall obtain from p201 Kentucky and the rest of the United States, the greater necessity there will be for those franchises, in order that there should be no lack of the goods necessary to supply the wants of the new comers; for, to these franchises we are indebted for the aggrandizement into which this province has been expanding itself since they were granted. It would be inopportune to repeat at light the reasons which determined His Majesty to bestow those favors, and I shall confine myself to the principal one, which is, that deer skins and indigo, which are the two most important returns of trade from this country to France, have not, to this day, been adapted to the commerce of Spain, because the importation of those skins into the Peninsula gives no profit, and that the indigo of Louisiana is inferior to that of Guatimala, which is chiefly used in the kingdom. The only articles the Americans could furnish for the commerce of Spain and Havana, would be flour, hemp, materials for cordage, and wrought iron. With regard to flour, it would be necessary for Your Excellency to consider, whether its exportation to Havana would not be prejudicial to the provinces of New Spain, which now supply that market," &c., &c.
On the 20th of February, Mirò sent to his government a copy of the instructions which he had given to Lieutenant-colonel Charles de Grandpré, Governor of Natchez, in relation to the 1582 Kentuckian families, which Pierre Wower d'Argès was expected to lead to that district. In that document Governor Mirò said to Grandpré: "You will make concession of land to every family on its arrival; to each family not owning negroes at all — •six arpens fronting a Bayou or water-course, with forty in depth, making a total of two hundred and forty arpens; to such as may have two, three, or four slaves, or be composed of four or six adult and unmarried sons, capable p202 of working — •ten arpens in front by forty in depth; to such as have from ten to twenty negroes — •fifteen arpens by forty, and to those owning more than twenty negroes, •twenty arpens by forty.
"As to religion, you are already aware that the will of his Majesty is, that they be not disturbed on that account, but I think it proper that they be made to understand, that this toleration means only that they shall not be compelled to become Catholics; and it is expedient that this information be conveyed to them in such a manner, as to convince them that they are not to have the free exercise of their religion — that is — that they are not to build churches, or have salaried ministers of their creed — which is the footing on which have been placed the settlers who have preceded them.
"I herewith forward to you a copy of the oath which you will require of them. You will take notice of its last clause, by which they bind themselves to take up arms against those who may come as enemies from the settlements above; you will then, after having assured them that they shall not be troubled in matters of religion, inform them that the object of peopling Louisiana is to protect it against any invasion whatever which may be directed against it from the aforesaid settlements; that this is to their own interest, since, under the Spanish domination, they cannot fail to be happy, on account of its mild and impartial administration of justice, and because they will have no taxes to pay; and besides, that the royal treasury will purchase all the tobacco which they may raise. Whilst presenting to them these considerations, you will carefully observe the manner in which they shall receive them, and the expression of their faces. Of this you will give me precise information, every time that you send me the original oaths taken."
The form of the oath was as follows:
"We, the undersigned, p203 do swear on the Holy Evangelists, entire fealty, vassalage and lealty to his Catholic Majesty, wishing voluntarily to live under his laws, promising not to act, either directly or indirectly, against his real interest, and to give immediate information to our commandants of all that may come to our knowledge, of whatever nature it may be, if prejudicial to the welfare of Spain in general, and to that of this province in particular, in the defence of which we hold ourselves ready to take up arms on the first summons of our chiefs, and particularly in the defence of this district, against whatever forces may come from the upper part of the river Mississippi, or from the interior of the continent."
Grandpré, however, had not to attend to these particulars, having been shortly after superseded by Lieutenant-colonel Gayoso de Lemos.
Such had been the efforts made to increase the population of Louisiana, when its prosperity was suddenly checked by a terrible visitation. On the 21st of March, 1788, being Good Friday,15 at half past one in the afternoon, a fire broke out in New Orleans, in the house of the military treasurer, Vicente Jose Nuñez, and reduced to ashes eight hundred and fifty-six edifices, among which were the stores of all the merchants, and the dwellings of the principal inhabitants, the Cathedral, the Convent of the Capuchins, with the greater portion of their books, the Townhall, the watch-house, and the arsenal with all its contents. Only seven hundred and fifty muskets were saved. The public prison was also burnt down, and time was hardly left to save the lives of the unfortunate inmates. Most of the buildings that escaped the conflagration were those which fronted the river. The wind was at the time blowing from the south with extreme violence, and rendered nugatory all attempts to stop the p204 progress of the devouring element. The imagination can easily conceive the scene of desolation; almost the whole of the population of the smouldering town was ruined, and deprived even of shelter during the whole of the following night. But, the next morning, Governor Mirò furnished those who desired it with tents, and distributed rations of rice, at the expense of his Majesty, to all those who applied for it. They were found to amount to about seven hundred persons. Many took refuge with those whose dwellings had not been consumed, every sort of assistance was tendered to the sufferers, and on this melancholy occasion, were displayed to advantage those feelings of compassion and generosity which lie latent in the human heart.
One of Mirò's first cares was to send to Philadelphia three vessels consigned to Gardoqui, to procure, in as short a time as possible, provisions, nails, medicaments, and other objects of indispensable necessity, which were to be resold at equitable prices. The Spanish minister was invited to grant permission to such any other vessels as would come to New Orleans with these articles, and $24,000 were remitted to him for the purchase of three thousand barrels of flour. Mirò sent to the Court of Spain a detailed account of the losses occasioned by this conflagration, and put them down at $2,595,561.
On the 1st of April, 1788, Governor Mirò wrote to his government a despatch containing a curious account of the state of public education in Louisiana. "It seems," said he, "that in 1772, there came from Spain Don Andreas Lopez de Armesto as director of the school which was ordered to be established at New Orleans, Don Pedro Aragon as teacher of grammar (maestro de syntaxis), Don Manuel Diaz de Lara as professor of the rudiments of the Latin language, and Don Francisco de la Celena as teacher of reading and writing (maestro de p205 primeras lettras). But the Governor, Don Luis de Unzaga, found himself greatly embarrassed as to the establishment of those schools, because he knew that the parents would not send their children to them, unless they were driven to it by the fear of some penalty. Considering, however, that it was not proper to resort to violence, he confined himself to making the public acquainted with the benefits they would derive from the education which the magnanimous heart of his Majesty thus put within their reach. Nevertheless, no pupil ever presented himself for the Latin class; a few came to be taught reading and writing only; these never exceeded thirty, and frequently dwindled down to six. For this reason, the three teachers taught nothing beyond the rudiments."
Mirò goes on saying, that the late conflagration having destroyed the school-house, Don Andres Almonaster had offered, as a substitute, free of charge, and as long as it should be wanted, a small edifice containing a room •thirteen feet in length by twelve in width, which would suffice for the present, because, since the occurrence of the fire, many families had retired into the country, so that the number of pupils had, by that event, been reduced from twenty-three to twelve. He also proposes the construction of a more respectable school-house, the cost of which he estimates at $6,000.
"The introduction of the Spanish language in this colony," he observes, "is an object of difficult attainment, which it will require much time to accomplish, as the like, with regard to any language, has always happened in every country passing under the domination of another nation. All that has been obtained so far is, that all the proceedings of the courts of justice in the town be conducted in Spanish. But we have not succeeded so well p206 in the other posts and dependencies, where French only continues to be spoken. Even in this town, the books of the merchants, except of those Spanish born, are kept in that language. For this reason, as those who have no fortune to leave to their sons aspire to give them no other career than a mercantile one, for which they think that reading writing is sufficient, they prefer that this be taught them in French, and thus there were, before the fire, eight schools of that description, which were frequented by four hundred children of both sexes."
On the 11th of April, Mirò and Navarro informed the cabinet of Madrid, in a joint despatch, that they had received a communication in cypher from Wilkinson, in which he conveyed to them the agreeable intelligence that, after a painful and long journey, he had safely returned from the North to the West, across the mountains; that all his predictions were on the eve of being accomplished; that, as he had foretold, Kentucky had separated itself from Virginia, and that the rest would follow of course as Spain desired. Wilkinson's letter had been brought by one of his boats, which was soon to be followed by the remainder of them. The following is a part of Wilkinson's letter, alluded to in Mirò and Navarro's despatch:
"I have collected much European and American news, and have made various interesting observations for our political designs. It would take a volume to contain all that I have to communicate to you. But I despatch this letter with such haste, and its fate is so uncertain, that I hope you will excuse me for not saying more until the arrival of my boats; and, in the mean time, I pray you to content yourselves with this assurance: all my predictions are verifying themselves, and not a measure is p207 taken on both sides of the mountains which does not conspire to favor ours. I encountered great difficulties in crossing the mountains," &c., &c.
"I must, however, let you know that I met in Richmond an old companion in arms, a friend of mine, and at present a member of Congress, who had just arrived from New York, and who communicated to me that, a few days before his departure, he had been informed by Gardoqui of my gracious reception at New Orleans by the Governor, &c. &c.
"In consequence of this, and considering that Gardoqui has spies all over the United States, I thought that, in order to prevent his suspicions, and divert his investigations from the quarter to which they might be directed, it was prudent on my part to write him a complimentary letter, in which I broached some ideas which may give rise to a correspondence between us, and the result of which I shall communicate to you.
"I beg you to be easy, and to be satisfied that nothing shall deter me from attending exclusively to the object we have on hand, and I am convinced that the success of our plan will depend on the disposition of the court.
"I take leave of you with the most ardent prayers to the Almighty for your spiritual and temporal welfare, and I beg to subscribe myself your unalterably devoted friend, and your most faithful, humble and obliged servant."
On the 15th of May, Mirò wrote to urge upon the government the necessity of buying for the account of the king a larger quantity of tobacco. "If it be not possible," said he, "that Spain should consume tobacco to the amount of a few more millions of pounds, I fear that the new colonists with whom this province is peopling itself will consider as without foundation the hopes which rested on the cultivation of this plant, and which p208 made them believe that they would find among us a prosperity, the expected enjoyment of which had induced them to prefer the domination of His Majesty to any other. This alone, I conceive, can make happy all the population which extends from Natchez inclusively to the regions above. I am so convinced of it, that I feel compelled to say, that there is no means more powerful to accomplish the principal object we have in view in the memorial which has been laid before His Majesty, than the promise that the government will take as much as six millions of pounds of their tobacco, instead of the two millions which are now bought from them."
On the 15th of May, Wilkinson wrote from Kentucky the following letter to Mirò and Navarro:
"My dear and venerated sirs, I have for the second time the pleasure of addressing you, and I flatter myself that some time ago you received my first communication, which I sent by express in a pirogue with two oarsmen, and the answer to which I am continually expecting.
"Major Isaac Dunn, the bearer of this despatch, and an old military companion of mine, came to settle in these parts during my absence. The reliance which I put in his honor, his discretion and his talents, has induced me, after having sounded his dispositions with proper caution, to choose him as a fit auxiliary in the execution of our political designs, which he has embraced with cordiality. He will therefore present himself in order to confer with you on those points which require more examination, and to concert with you those measures which you may deem necessary to expedite our plan; and, through him, I shall be able to receive the new instructions which you may deem expedient to send me. I have also chosen him to bring me back the product of the present cargo of my boats. For these reasons, permit me to recommend him as one worthy of p209 your entire confidence, and as a safe and sagacious man, who is profoundly acquainted with the political state of the American Union, and with the circumstances of this section of the country. I desire that he be detained in Louisiana as little as possible.
"On the first day of January of the next year, 1789, by mutual consent, this district will cease to be subjected to the jurisdiction of Virginia. It has been stipulated, it is true, as a necessary condition of our independence, that this territory be acknowledged an independent State by Congress, and be admitted as such into the Federal Union. But a Convention has already been called to form the constitution of this section of the country, and I am persuaded that no action on the part of Congress will ever induce this people to abandon the plan which they have adopted, although I have recent intelligence that Congress will, beyond a doubt, recognize us as a Sovereign State.
"The Convention of which I have spoken will meet in July. I will, in the mean time, inquire into the prevailing opinions, and shall be able to ascertain the extent of the influence of the members elected. When this is done, after having previously come to an understanding with two or three individuals capable of assisting me, I shall disclose so much of our great scheme as may appear opportune, according to circumstances, and I have no doubt but that it will meet with a favorable reception; because, although I have been communicative with no more than two individuals, I have sounded many, and wherever it has seemed expedient to me to make known your answer to my memorial, it has caused the keenest satisfaction. Colonel Alexander Leatt Bullit and Harry Innis, our attorney-general, are the only individuals to whom I have intrusted our views, and, in case p210 of any mishap befalling me before their accomplishment, you may, in perfect security, address yourselves to these gentlemen, whose political designs agree entirely with yours. Thus, as soon as the new government shall be organized and adopted by the people, they will proceed to elect a governor, the members of the legislative body and other officers, and I doubt not but that they will name a political agent with power to treat of the affair in which we are engaged, and I think that all this will be done by the month of March next. In the meantime, I hope to receive your orders, which I will do my utmost to execute.
"I do not anticipate any obstacle from Congress, because, under the present federal compact, that body can neither dispose of men nor money, and the new government, should it establish itself, will have to encounter difficulties which will keep it weak for three or four years, before the expiration of which I have good grounds to hope that we shall have completed our negotiations, and shall have become too strong to be subjected by any force which may be sent against us. The only fears I have, proceed from the policy which may prevail in your Court, I am afraid of a change in the present ministry, and in the administration of Louisiana, of the possibility of which event you are better judges than I can be, and I beg you to be explicit with me on the subject.
"In my last, I mentioned a letter which I had addressed to Gardoqui. I took the precaution to put it open into the hands of the Baron De Ziller,16 in Philadelphia, my relation and trusty friend, who has since written to me that, after mature reflection, he had thought it best not to deliver it.
p211 "I have applied17 to Mr. Clark, my agent in New Orleans, with regard to sending me merchandise by the way of the Mississippi. This is of the utmost importance for the accomplishment of our wishes, because the only tie which can preserve the connection of this section of the country with the Atlantic States is the necessity under which we are, to rely on them altogether for the supply of such articles as are not manufactured among us; and when this people shall find out that they can procure them more conveniently through this river, the dependent state in which they are will cease, and with it all motives of connection with the other side of the Apalachian mountains. Our hopes will then be turned towards you, and all obstacles in the way of our negotiations will have been removed; for which reasons, I flatter myself that you will find it expedient to favor this measure, and will have the kindness to grant to Mr. Clark the necessary protection to carry it into execution.
"Referring you to the preceding observations, and to the information which Major Dunn will give as to what I may have omitted, I beg you to accept my wishes for your happiness, and to believe me to be, with the high and warmest personal respect and esteem, your obedient, humble and ready servant."
On the 15th of June, Mirò sent to Spain a copy of Wilkinson's letter with the following observations:
"The flatboats of Brigadier-General Wilkinson have just arrived with a cargo which cost seven thousand p212 dollars in Kentucky, under the care of Major Dunn, who has delivered me the letter of which I forward a translation. It will make you acquainted with the state in which is the principal affair mentioned in my confidential despatch No. 13. This Major confirms all of Wilkinson's assertions, and gives it out as certain, that, next year, after the meeting of the first assemblies in which Kentucky will act as an independent State, she will separate entirely from the Federal Union; he further declares that he has come to this conclusion from having heard it expressed in various conversations among the most distinguished citizens of that State: that the direction of the current of the rivers which run in front of their dwellings points clearly to the power to which they ought to ally themselves, but he declares that he is ignorant of the terms on which this alliance will be proposed. The said Brigadier-General, in a letter addressed to me, adds that he flatters himself with the prospect of his being the delegate of his State to present to me the propositions offered by his countrymen, and that he hopes to embrace me in April next.
"From the beginning, he had informed me that he was not possessed of any pecuniary means. Here an individual, on the recommendation of the Intendant Navarro, had loaned him three thousand dollars. He now begs me not to seize his cargo, as he has pledged the product of its sale to refund that sum, and to pay his crew and the amount due on the tobacco which he had bought on credit, and as the balance is to enable him to support himself without embarrassment, which will contribute to preserve and increase his influence in his State.
"Although his candor, and the information which I have sought from many who have known him well, seem to assure us that he is working in good earnest, yet I am p213 aware that it may be possible that his intention is to enrich himself at our expense, by inflating us with hopes and promises which he knows to be vain. Nevertheless, I have determined to humor him on this occasion, &c. &c.
[. . .]
"As you may have seen, Wilkinson had promised a volume of information when his flatboats should come down. He has kept his word, and transmitted to me various newspapers containing articles on the Mississippi, the letters of the American, Sullivan, which Don Diego Gardoqui must have communicated to you, and a paper of his own, full of reflections on the new federal government, the establishments on the Ohio, and the navigation of the Mississippi, of which the only passage worthy of occupying your Excellency's attention is the last one, in which he says to me, that 'If Sullivan presents himself on this side of the Apalachian mountains, I may rest assured that his journey will soon be at an end, and that there will be obstacles in his way, to prevent him from becoming troublesome to this province, as he boasts of.' "
On the same day, Mirò forwarded to his government the copy of a letter addressed, on the 25th of April, by McGillivray, the chief of the Talapouches and the pensioned ally of the Spaniards, to the Governor of Pensacola:
"I must inform you," said the Indian chief, "that since the departure of Garion with my last letters, two delegates from the district of Cumberland have arrived with proposals of peace to this nation. They represented to me that they were reduced to extremities by the incursions of our warriors, and that, to obtain peace and our friendship, they were disposed to submit to whatever conditions we might choose to impose; and, presuming that it would have a powerful influence with me and would secure them my favor, they added that they p214 would throw themselves into the arms of his Majesty as subjects, and that Cumberland and Kentucky are determined to free themselves from their dependence on Congress, because that body cannot protect either their persons or their property, or favor their commerce, and they therefore believe that they owe no obedience to a power which is incapable of benefiting them.
"These deputies desired to know my sentiments on the subject of their propositions; but as it embraces important political questions, I thought proper not to divulge my views. My answer was, that, in the first great council held by this nation, these matters would be considered, and that, in the mean time, all hostilities would cease, and that peace would be finally established, when its conditions should be agreed upon." McGillivray's correspondence, if proceeding from his own pen, denotes in that half-breed a man of considerable education and of singular abilities, not supposed generally to exist in those of his race and position.
Commenting on this letter in a despatch of the 15th of June, Mirò said:
"I consider as extremely interesting the intelligence conveyed to McGillivray by the deputies, on the fermentation existing in Kentucky with regard to a separation from the Union, &c.
[. . .]
"Concerning the possessions made to McGillivray by the inhabitants of Cumberland to become the vassals of his Majesty, I have abstained from returning any precise answer," &c., &c.
[. . .]
"As it may happen, however, that deputies may soon come here from that part of the country, I beg your Excellency to prescribe to me the course which I am to pursue as the most agreeable to his Majesty."
Whilst all these intrigues were on foot, the population p215 of Louisiana was steadily increasing, and Colonel Peter Brian Browin,18 among others, with a number of families, provided with passports from Gardoqui, had arrived to settle in the district of Natchez. A census was taken this year, 1788, and presented the following results:
|City of New Orleans,||5,338|
|From the Balize to the city,||2,378|
|At the Terre aux Boeufs,||661|
|On the Bayous St. John and Gentilly,||772|
|Parish of St. Charles,||2,381|
|St. John the Baptist,||1,368|
There were about as many whites as there were slaves, and the free colored persons numbered about 1,700. In 1785, the census had given a total of 31,433 souls; thus the increase had been considerable, and would appear still more so, if it be true, as it was then asserted, that p216 this last census was short of the real number, and that the population at the time ought to have been computed at least at 45,000 souls.
This year, Mirò, who, it will be recollected, had been appointed, in 1785, Judge of Residence to inquire into the official acts of Unzaga, received a commission to the same effect with regard to Galvez, under whom he had served, who had led him to victory, whom he loved as his chief and companion in arms, — Galvez, who now was the powerful Viceroy of the kingdom of Mexico, and whose uncle19 have been so recently the omnipotent minister of the King of Spain! It seems that the minister who signed this commission and sent it to Mirò, can hardly be supposed to have refrained from a smile at the mockery he was perpetrating.
In the spring of 1788, Martin Navarro, the gifted Intendant of Louisiana, who had won the esteem, respect, and attachment of all classes, during his long residence in the colony, left it for Spain, and the two offices of Intendant and Governor were united in the person of Mirò. Considering the importance of the great scheme of which Mirò was one of the main springs, it was thought necessary to facilitate his operations by exposing him to no interference with his authority on the part of a colleague in power. Besides, to appoint a new Intendant would have been to initiate another person, who might lack prudence and discretion, into secrets which it was good policy to keep within the breasts of as few individuals as possible, and this might have been objected to by Wilkinson and his associates, as endangering their safety. Navarro's last official despatch was a memorial which was to be submitted to the king, and in which, at the request of the Minister of the Department of the p217 Indies, he expressed his views in relation to Louisiana. In this document, the Intendant depicted in vivid colors the dangers which Spain had to apprehend for her American colonies, from the thirteen provinces that had lately become independent and had assumed their rank among the nations of the earth, under the appellation of the United States of America. He dwelt with peculiar emphasis on the ambition and the thirst of conquest which his keen eye could already detect in the breast of the new-born giant, who, as he predicted with remarkable accuracy, would not rest satisfied until he extended his domains across the continent, and bathed his vigorous young limbs in the placid waves of the Pacific. When was there a truer prophet? And how was this dread event, so clearly foreseen, to be prevented? — By severing the Union — by dividing from the Atlantic States the boundless West, where so much power was already slumbering in the lap of the wilderness. To effect this, was not, in his opinion, very difficult, if the propitious circumstances, then existing, were turned to advantage without loss of time, and by the use of proper means. "Grant," said he, "every sort of commercial privileges to the masses in the western region, and shower pensions and honours on their leaders." This memorial produced a deep impression at Madrid, and confirmed the government of Spain in the policy which it had begun to pursue.
D'Argès had, in consequence, received instructions from Gardoqui and from the Count of Florida Blanca, one of the members of the Cabinet of Madrid, to do all that was in his power to procure the dismemberment of the American Union. He had come to solicit assistance and co-operation from Mirò; but, to his great astonishment, he was detained in New Orleans by the Governor, under various pretexts, and not permitted to p218 ascend the Mississippi, on his way to the West. In a despatch of the 7th of August, addressed to the Count of Florida Blanca, Mirò explained his reasons for so doing. "Being obliged," said he, "to conceal from D'Argès the true cause of Wilkinson's visit to New Orleans, I told him only, that the General had presented to the Court a memorial approved by me, in favor of the district of Kentucky, with a view to opening a trade between this colony and that province. He cannot conceive why I am losing, as he thinks, so much time, and why I do not hasten to avail myself of the permission given by your Excellency to carry on an enterprise, to which he would join his contribution of labor, at the propitious moment when the inhabitants of Kentucky are framing the Constitution of that State. His intentions are praiseworthy, if sincere, as I believe them to be. But my mind, although not very acute, has not been without detecting that the jealous ambition of a man easily produces feelings of enmity in his breast, and that, when two individuals work together in the same undertaking, the first who discovers that his companion is to reap all the merit of the success, if obtained, is apt, instead of contributing to it, to use for its defeat the very knowledge and experience which he has acquired in the matter.
"My not permitting D'Argès to ascend the river will not be productive of any injury to the royal service, and his being allowed to be in competition with Wilkinson, when they cannot be made acquainted with their reciprocal mission, would produce results of a serious nature, and, thus, I hope to obtain the approbation of your Excellency for detaining him here, until I receive the instructions of his Majesty on the main question."
On the 28th of August, Mirò wrote to his Government: "In compliance with the orders given by the American p219 Brigadier-General, James Wilkinson, to his agent here, this individual has invested the product of the sale of tobacco, with an additional sum of money, in merchandise, with which he has loaded a boat. This cargo, which has required an outlay of $18,246 and six reals, is composed of eatables and dry goods destined for the Kentucky market.
The establishment of this trade is of the utmost consequence for the success of our great project, which I disclosed and explained in the confidential despatch No. 13, to which is annexed the memorial of the said Brigadier, because it is exceedingly important that the Western people should see, before declaring themselves for a change of domination, that the true channel through which they had to be supplied with the objects of their wants, in exchange for their own productions, is the Mississippi."
Mirò explains at length the facilities of that commerce, and demonstrates how much more advantageous it would be for the Western people than that which they have been forced to carry on, across the mountains, with the Atlantic States.
"The great obstacle," continues he, "which Wilkinson's agent, who is also interested in this commercial adventure, has to encounter, is the difficulty to ascend as far up the falls of the Ohio without being attacked by the Indians, but I have encouraged him to attempt it at all hazards, and I have proposed to him to send two expresses to Wilkinson, one through the Talapouche territory, and the other through the Chickasaw nation, to notify the General of the coming up of his boat, in order that he may send an armed one to the mouth of the Ohio, which, with the twenty rowers who man the boat, will, I hope, be sufficient protection to secure its safety. I have written to Wilkinson not to sell the p220 goods at a higher price than what they cost here, because it is highly important that this first essay should inspire the inhabitants of Kentucky with the most flattering hopes.
"I have good reasons to expect that the arrival of this boat will produce the most agreeable sensation among these people, and will make them feel more keenly that their felicity depends on the concession of such commercial facilities by his Majesty, and for the acquisition of which I conceive that there are few sacrifices which they would not make; and therefore I hope with the utmost confidence, that his Majesty will approve all that I have done, on this and other occasions — which course has secured to me the most profound tranquillity in this province, whilst I am waiting for instructions in so great and important an affair."
On the 7th of September, Colonel Morgan addressed from New Jersey to Gardoqui, a very curious memorial, in which he proposes to establish on certain conditions an immense colony near the mouth of the Ohio. Those conditions he stipulates at length, and declares that, if they are strictly adhered to, the population which he will draw to that settlement will, in ten years, amount to at least one hundred thousand souls. He expatiates on the advantages which would result therefrom to Spain, and, in return for what he promises to do, he desires that the rank of colonel enjoyed by him in the army of the United States, against whose government he expresses himself with some bitterness of feeling, and which he accuses of having acted with bad faith towards him, be secured to him; that he be granted a concession of •twenty miles square, with a pension for the rest of his life, and that other boons and advantages be guarantied to himself and to his family.
On the 4th of October, Gardoqui answered Colonel p221 George Morgan from New York, expressing the warmest of that gentleman's plan of colonization, and informing him that he had forwarded it to be submitted to the king, and that he doubted not but that all that was applied for would be granted. "As you seem anxious," said he, "not to lose any time, I forthwith transmit a passport, and letters for the Spanish authorities, so that you may go at once, and examine the territory in which you contemplate making your settlement. On your arrival at New Orleans, you will act in concert with the Governor, who will give you all the facilities you desire, and, in your progress through the West, on your way to the capital of Louisiana, you will assure the inhabitants of his Majesty's desires to grant them all the favors and privileges which may secure their prosperity."
Gardoqui, on the 7th of the same month, wrote also to Major Dunn, to entreat him to make his fellow-citizens acquainted with the sincere wish which he, Gardoqui, entertained, to procure, as he expressed it, the happiness of that Western world, provided they should understand their own interests, and second his operations without loss of time.20
On the 3d of November, Mirò thus expressed himself in a despatch to the Minister Don Antonio Valdès, in relation to the grand scheme of dismembering the Union: "This affair proceeds more rapidly than I had presumed, and some considerable impetus is given to it by the answer of Congress to the application of Kentucky to be admitted into the Union as an independent State. That answer is, that the new federal government which is soon to go into operation will take their wishes into p222 consideration, and will act thereon. This information Don Diego Gardoqui must have communicated, but he did not what follows.
"Oliver Pollock, a citizen of Philadelphia, who arrived here three days ago, in a vessel from Martinique, has declared to me that Brown,d a member of Congress, who is a man of property in Kentucky, told him in confidence that, in the debates of that body on the question of the independence of that Territory, he saw clearly that the intention of his colleagues was, that Kentucky should remain under the jurisdiction of Congress, like the county of Illinois, and that a Governor should be appointed by them for that province as for the other; but that, as this was opposed to the welfare of the inhabitants of Kentucky, he was determined to return home (which he did before Pollock's departure from Philadelphia), and, on his arrival, to call for a general assembly of his fellow citizens, in order to proceed immediately to declare themselves independent, and to propose to Spain the opening of a commercial intercourse with reciprocal advantages; and that, to accomplish this object, he would send to Pollock the necessary documents, to be laid before me and to be forwarded to your Excellency. He requested Pollock to prepare me for it in anticipation.
"Your Excellency will therefore rest assured that Brown, on his arrival in Kentucky, finding Wilkinson and his associates disposed to surrender themselves up to Spain, or at least to put themselves under her protection, will easily join them, and it is probable, as Wilkinson has already foretold it, that, next spring, I shall have to receive here a deputation appointed in due form.
"I acted towards Pollock with a great deal of caution, and answered him as one to whom had been communicated p223 some new and unlooked for information, giving him to understand, that I could not pledge to him my support before seeing the documents which he expected," &c., &c.
These intrigues, of which Louisiana was the focus, were the most interesting events which marked her history in the year 1788. In the course of the same year, the fortitude of the colonists, whose number Spain was so anxious to increase, had been sorely tried by inundations which had devastated the post of St. Genevieve, at Illinois, and the districts of Manchac, Baton Rouge, and other settlements. The principal sufferers were the Acadians, to whose relief the Colonial government found itself obliged to come, to the amount of $12,000.21 The Bonnet Carré Levee, which is now a cause of so much expense and danger, possessed the same characteristics in 1788. The inhabitants of the German coast petitioned Mirò to come to their assistance, and one Antoine Peytavin proposed to borrow from the royal Treasury, on giving good security, the sum of $16,000 payable in six years, and on binding himself to stop the crevasse at that spot, and to reconstruct a strong embankment, provided the full property of the lands, the front of which he would have to protect, be made over to him.
On the 12th of February, 1789, Wilkinson wrote from Lexington, Kentucky, to Governor Mirò:
"Immediately after having sent you my despatch by Major Dunn, I devoted all my faculties to our political designs, and I have never since turned aside from the pursuit of the important object we have in view. If subsequent events have not come up to our expectations, still I conceive that they are such as to inspire us with flattering hopes p224 of success in due time, and, although in the conjectural opinions which I presented to you and Navarro, I may, in some particulars, have been deceived, you will yet see that, in the main, I expressed myself with a prophetic spirit, and that important events have occurred, to confirm the accuracy of my sentiments.
"When Major Dunn left Kentucky, I had opened myself only to the Attorney General Innis, and to Colonel Bullitt, who favor our designs, and indirectly I had sounded others, whom I also found well disposed to adopt my ideas. But, having made a more strict examination, I discovered that the proposed new government of the United States had inspired some with apprehensions, and others with hopes — so much that I saw that this circumstance would be a cause of some opposition and delay. I also perceived that all idea that Kentucky would subject itself to Spain must be abandoned for the present, and that the only feasible plan to the execution of which I had to direct my attention was that of a separation from the United States, and an alliance with Spain, on conditions which could not yet be defined with precision. I considered that, whatever be the time when the separation should be brought about, this district being then no longer under the protection of the United States, Spain might dictate her own terms; for which reason, I embraced without delay this last alternative.
"The question of separation from the United States, although discussed with vehemence among the most distinguished inhabitants of this section of the country, had never been mentioned, in a formal manner, to the people at large, but now was the time for making this important and interesting experiment, and it became my indispensable mission to do so. I had to work on a ground not yet prepared for the seed to be deposited in it, and I felt that, to produce a favorable impression, I p225 had to proceed with reserve, and avoid with the utmost care any demonstration which might be calculated to cause surprise or alarm. For these motives, I gave an equivocal season to the expression of my design, speaking of it in general terms, as being recommended by eminent politicians of the Atlantic coast, with whom I had conversed on this affair, and thus, by indirect suggestions and arguments, I inspired the people with my own views, without presenting them as such, because it would have been imprudent in me to divulge them under the existing circumstances, and I can give you the solemn assurance that I found all the men belonging to the first class of society in the district, with the exception of Colonel Marshall, our surveyor, and Colonel Muter, one of our judges, decidedly in favor of separation from the United States and of an alliance with Spain. At first, these two men had expressed this same opinion with warmth, but now their feelings have taken a different direction from private motives of interest and personal pique; for which reasons I have very little to dread from their influence; but, at the same time, I foresaw that they would avail themselves of the opposition made by some literary demagogues, who were under the influence of fear and prejudice. Nevertheless, I determined to lay the question before our Convention, and I took the necessary measures accordingly.
"I was thus occupied until the 28th of July, on which day our Convention met at Danville, in conformity with the ordinance you saw in the Gazette which I sent you by Major Dunn. The Honorable Samuel McDowell, President of the Convention, had, the day before, received a packet from the Secretary of Congress, containing an account of the proceedings of that body on the subject which excited our solicitude, — that is, our intended separation from the State of Virginia.
p226 "You will remember that, in my memorial, I was of opinion that the Atlantic States would not consent to the admission of this district into the Union, as an independent State, but, on my return from New-Orleans,º I was induced to alter my opinion from the information which I received through persons of the highest authority, under that new impression, I wrote you by Major Dunn. Thus we were not prepared for an unexpected event, of which we could have received no premonition. You will at first sight discover, on perusing the aforesaid paper No. 1, that this Act of Congress was passed with the intention to gain time, amuse and deceive the people of this district, and make them believe that they could rely on the good dispositions of the Atlantic States, until the formation of the new government, when our opponents flatter themselves that it will be able to check our designs. Unfortunately, this artifice produced but too much effect on the members of this Convention, and confirmed the apprehensions of others.
"From this proceeding of Congress it resulted, that the Convention was of opinion, that our proposed independence and separation from Virginia not being ratified, its mission and powers were at an end, and we found ourselves in the alternative, either of proceeding to declare our independence, or of waiting according to the recommendation of Congress. This was the state of affairs, when the Honorable Caleb Wallace, one of our Supreme Judges, the Attorney-General Innis, and Benjamin Sebastian proposed a prompt separation from the American Union, and advocated with intrepidity the necessity of the measure. The artifice of Congress was exposed, its proceedings reprobated, the consequences of depending on a body whose interests were opposed to ours were depicted in the most vivid colors, and the strongest motives were set forth to justify the separation. p227 The arguments used were unanswerable, and no opposition was manifested in the course of the debates. It was unanimously conceded that the present connection was injurious to our interests, and that it could not last any length of time. Nevertheless, sir, when the question was finally taken, fear and folly prevailed against reason and judgment. It was thought safer and more convenient to adhere to the recommendation of Congress, and, in consequence, it was decided that the people be advised to elect a new Convention, which should meet in the month of November, in conformity with the ordinance which you will find in the Gazette, No. 2.
"I am afraid of fatiguing you with these details, but I felt that it is my duty, in an affair of so much importance, to relate facts as they have occurred. You may also blame me for having raised this question so soon, and at a time when I had grounds to doubt of its being decided favorably, but I flatter myself that my intentions justify my course of action.
"To consolidate the interests and confirm the confidence of our friends,22 to try our strength, to familiarize the people with what we aim at, to dissipate the apprehension which important innovations generally produce, and to provoke the resentment of Congress with a view to stimulate that body into some invidious political act, which might excite the passions of the people; these are the motives which influenced me, and on which I rely for my justification.
"The last Convention was legally elected, and met at Danville in the month of November, in conformity with p228 the decree above-mentioned. Marshall and Muter had, in the mean time, been scattering distrusts and apprehensions calculated to do injury to our cause. It is evident, however, that it has acquired considerable force; but, in order to elicit an unequivocal proof of the dispositions of that assembly, I submitted to its examination my original memorial and the joint answer of yourself and Navarro. I received, in the terms which you will find in the Gazette, No. 3, the unanimous thanks of that body, in token of its approbation of my conduct on that occasion. Some of our friends urged me to avail myself of this opportunity to revive the great question, but I thought that it was more judicious to indulge those who, for the moment, wish only that a new application be made in relation to the independence and separation of Kentucky from Virginia, and that a memorial be addressed to Congress on the necessity of obtaining the free use of the navigation of the Mississippi. I assented to these last propositions the more readily, that it was unanimously resolved that, should any of them be rejected, then the people would be invited to adopt all the measures necessary to secure for themselves a separate government from that of the United States, because it would have become evident that Congress had neither the will nor the power to satisfy their hopes. I determined therefore to wait for the effects which will result from the disappointment of those hopes, and on which I rely to unite the country into one opinion. This is the basis on which the great question now rests, and the Convention has adjourned to the next month.
"Thus, Sir, if we review the policy favored by the inhabitants of Kentucky, we see that the most intelligent and the wealthiest relish our designs, which are opposed by only two men of rank, who, controlled by their fears of silly demagogues, and filling their followers with hopes p229 from the expected action of the new Congress, have caused the suspension of the measures we had in view to unite the people, and thus to secure the success of our plans without involving the country in violent civil commotions.
"There are three conditions which are requisite to perpetuate the connection of this section of the country with the Atlantic States. The first, and the most important, is the navigation of the Mississippi; the second, which is of equal importance, is the admission of this district into the Union as an independent State, and on the same footing with the others; the third, and the last, which is of less moment, is the exemption from taxes until the befalling of the two events previously mentioned. Now, Sir, as two of these conditions are inadmissible, either by the Atlantic States or by Spain, can any one hesitate to declare what will be the consequences? With due deference, I say, No; because, as it is not rational to suppose the voluntary casting away of property, that another may profit by it, so it is not to be presumed that the Eastern States, which at present have the balance of power in their favor in the American government, will consent to strip themselves of this advantage, and increase the weight of the Southern States, by acknowledging the independence of this district and admitting it to be a member of the Federal Union. That the people of Kentucky, as soon as they are certain of their being refused what they claim, will separate from the United States, is proclaimed even by Marshall, Muter, and their more timid followers.
"The same effect will be produced by the suspension of the navigation of the Mississippi, which lies entirely in the power of Spain, and which must reduce this section of the country to misery and ruin; and as it has been stipulated that the operations of the Federal Government p230 shall be uniform, the new Congress will have to lay taxes, without exception whatever, over the whole country submitted to its jurisdiction. The people here, not having the means of paying those taxes, will resist them, and the authority of the new government will be set at naught, which will produce a civil war, and result in the separation of the West from the East.
"This event is written in the book of destiny. But if, to produce it, we trust solely to the natural effect of political measures, we shall experience some delay. It is in the power of Spain, however, to precipitate its accomplishment by a judicious coöperation; and permit me here to illustrate the observations which I presented some time ago to yourself and Navarro, in my answer to your inquiries as to the nature of that coöperation.
"As long as the connection between the Americans of the East and of the West on this side of the Apalachian mountains shall produce reciprocal benefits, and an equal security to their common interests and happiness, the Union will maintain itself on a solid foundation, and will resist any effort to dissolve it; but, as soon as it shall be ascertained that one section of the confederacy derives from the Union more advantages than the other, and that the blessings of a good government — such as peace and protection — cannot be equally distributed, then harmony will cease, and jealousies will arise, producing discord and disunion. In order to aid the favorable dispositions of Providence, to foment the suspicions and feeling of distrust already existing here, and inflame the animosity between the Eastern and Western States, Spain must resort to every artifice and other means which may be in her power.
"I have stated that the navigation of the Mississippi, and its admission as an independent State and a member of the Union, are rights claimed by the people of this p231 part of the country, and constituting one of the principal conditions under which its connection with the Atlantic States is to continue. Hence it follows, that every manifestation of the power of Spain and of the debility of the United States, every evidence of the resolution of the former to retain exclusively for herself the right of navigation on the Mississippi, and every proof of the incapacity of the latter, will facilitate our views. Every circumstance also that will tend to impede our admission as an independent State will loosen the attachment of many individuals, increase the discontent of the people, and favor the execution of our plan.
"Until I devoted myself entirely to the affair in which we are engaged, I confess that I could not discover the aim of the first treaty proposed by Gardoqui to Congress, but it seems to me now that I can penetrate its policy. I consider it as profoundly judicious, and I am of opinion that it ought to be renewed and vigorously carried on, until its objects be attained, cost what it may, because, besides that the proposed relinquishment of the right of navigating the Mississippi would immediately disrupt the Union, and separate for ever the West from the East, the sanction of our treaty by Congress would make our situation so truly desperate, that Great Britain would not venture to intervene in our favor, and all our hopes would rest on the liberality of Spain.
"Whilst this affair is pending, Spain ought to consider the navigation of the Mississippi as one of the most precious jewels of her crown. For, whatever power shall command that navigation, will control all the country which is watered by that river and by those streams which fall into it. This control will be as effective and complete as that of the key upon the lock, or that of the citadel over the exterior works which it commands. The grant of this boon ought to be looked upon as the p232 price of our attachment and gratitude, and I beg leave to be permitted to repeat, that there must be known no instance of its being extended to any other than those who understand and promote the interests of Spain in this part of the country. I entreat you, Sir, to believe, that this question of navigation is the main one on which depends the union of the West and East, and that, if Congress can obtain the free use of the Mississippi, and if Spain should cede it without condition, it would strengthen the Union, and would deprive Spain of all its influence on this district.
"The sanguine spirit of an American impels him to construe in his favor everything that is left doubtful, and therefore Spain cannot act with too absolute precision on this important question. You must not forget, Sir, that such was my first impression, in which I have been daily confirmed by subsequent observations and experience. The concessions of the Americans will be in proportion to the energy and power exhibited by Spain; but were she to yield, she would lose much in dignity and consideration, and she would breed in the Americans a spirit of pride and self-importance quite incompatible with our designs. Thus, the privileges conceded to emigrants are an obstacle in the way of our great undertaking, because, as they were bestowed before they were asked for, and as they were entirely unexpected, they have been considered here by many as the effects of fear, and as a prelude to the removal of all restrictions whatever on our commerce.
"The generality of our population are constantly discussing and fostering these ideas, and as long as the hopes they have conceived on this subject are kept up, it is a circumstance which will militate in favor of the Union, and will delay the effect of my operations.
"With due deference I may be permitted to say, that, p233 to people the banks of the Mississippi with Americans ought to be an object of secondary importance to the interests of his Catholic Majesty, because there is no necessity to transplant a population which can be continued and governed on the soil where it grows naturally. The engrafted branch retains the primitive qualities of the parent trunk. Moreover, if Spain can establish colonies of Americans on the Mississippi, there is no reason why she should not have them also on the Ohio. It is an incontestable fact, worthy of your attention, that the emigrants who have come down the Ohio, in order to settle in Louisiana, are insolvent debtors and fugitives from justice, and are poor and without principles. Such people are not only unworthy vassals, but also ought to be looked upon as dangerous characters, against whom it is prudent to be on one's guard.
"But, sir, should unforeseen events produce results contrary to my wishes, to my logical deductions and to my hopes, should an obstinate resistance to forming a connection with Spain, or should an unexpectedly hostile disposition manifest itself in these settlements, then the true policy would be to make of emigration the principal object to be obtained, and Spain would always have the power, through some agents of an eminent rank here, to draw to her the most respectable portion of the population of this district. Hundreds have applied to me on this subject, who are determined to follow my example, and I do not deceive myself, nor do I deceive you, sir, when I affirm that it is in my power to lead a large body of the most opulent and most respectable of my fellow-citizens whither I shall go myself at their head, and I flatter myself that, after the dangers I have run and the sacrifices which I have made, after having put my honor and my life in your hands, you can have no doubts of my favorable dispositions towards the interests p234 of his Catholic Majesty, as long as my poor services shall be necessary.
"After having read these remarks, you will be surprised at being informed, that lately I have, jointly with several gentlemen of this country, applied to Don Diego Gardoqui for a concession of land, in order to form a settlement on the river Yazoo. The motive of this application is to procure a place of refuge for myself and my adherents, in case it should become necessary for us to retire from this country, in order to avoid the resentment of Congress. It is true that there is not, so far, the slightest appearance of it, but it is judicious to provide for all possible contingencies.
"These observations are sincere and well meant, and although I still continue to be without any answer from the Spanish Ministry, I consider myself bound in honor to proceed in my undertaking until I obtain favorable results. Ardent are my wishes and strong are my hopes, but may not both be illusive? Is it not possible that Great Britain may have accomplished her desires, by exchanging Gibraltar for the two Floridas and the Island of New-Orleans?º It is a rumor which is afloat in America, and I must confess that it fills me with anxiety; for I have a very recent proof that that power turns its attention to this country with the utmost earnestness, and sets in motion every sort of machinery to secure its aim, because, whilst William Eden is negotiating in Madrid with his Excellency the Count of Florida Blanca, Lord Dorchester, the Governor of Canada, scatters his emissaries in this district, to win over the people to the interests of Great Britain. The document No. 4 contains an authentic copy of the letter of General St. Clair, Governor of the Northern portion of the territory of Ohio, to Major Dunn. That letter, sir, is the proof that the part which I play in our great enterprise, and the dangers to p235 which I am exposed for the service of his Catholic Majesty, are known; and it will serve at the same time to evidence the correctness of the information which I have in my memorial in relation to the designs of Great Britain. Whence and how General St. Clair has acquired any knowledge of the views of Spain, I cannot guess, unless he should have inferred them from the indiscreet zeal of Don Diego Gardoqui, which may have hurried that gentleman into confidential communications to persons unworthy of that trust, and even to strangers, as must have been demonstrated to you by the extract of his letter to Colonel Morgan, which you will find in the paper marked No. 5, and which is now circulating over the whole of this district. So far as I am concerned, having shared in this important affair, I will endeavor to discharge with fidelity the part assigned to me, without being deterred by the fear of consequences, always relying on the generosity of his majesty, who will indemnify me or my family for whatever loss of fortune I may incur.
"The British Colonel Connelly, who is mentioned in General St. Clair's letter, arrived at Louisville in the beginning of October, having travelled from Detroit through the woods, to mouth of the river Big Miami, from which he came down the Ohio in a boat. My agent in that town (Louisville) gave me immediate information of that fact, and of the intention which Connelly had to visit me. Suspecting the nature of the negotiation he had on hand, I determined, in order to discover his secret views, to be beforehand with him, and to invite him here. Consequently he came to my house on the 8th of November. I received him courteously, and, as I manifested favorable dispositions towards the interests of his Britannic Majesty, I soon gained his confidence — so much so — that he informed me that Great Britain, desiring to assist the American p236 settlers in the West, in their efforts to open the navigation of the Mississippi, would join them with ready zeal, to dispossess Spain of Louisiana. He remarked that the forces in Canada were not sufficient to send detachments of them to us, but that Lord Dorchester would supply us with all the implements of war, and with money, clothing, &c. . . . to equip ten thousand men, if we wished to engage in that enterprise. He added that, as soon as our plan of operation should be agreed upon, these articles would be sent from Detroit, through Lake Erie, to the river Miami, and thence to the Wabash, to be transported to any designated point on the Ohio, and that a fleet of light vessels would be ready at Jamaica to take possession of the Balize, at the same time that we should make an attack from above. He assured me that he was authorized by Lord Dorchester to confer honors and other rewards on the men of influence who should enter on that enterprise, and that all those who were officers in the late continental army, should be provided with the same grade in the service of Great Britain. He urged me much to favor his designs, offering me what rank and emoluments I might wish for, and telling me at the same time that he was empowered to grant commissions for the raising of two regiments which he hoped to form in Kentucky. After having pumped out of him all that I wished to know, I began to weaken his hopes by observing that the feelings of animosity engendered by the late revolution were so recent in the hearts of the Americans, that I considered it impossible to entice them into an alliance with Great Britain; that, in this district, particularly in that part of it where the inhabitants had suffered so much from the barbarous hostilities of the Indians, which were attributed to British influence, the resentment of every individual was much more intense and implacable. p237 In order to justify this opinion of mine and induce him to go back, I employed a hunter, who feigned attempting his life. The pretext assumed by the hunter was the avenging of the death of his son, murdered by the Indians at the supposed instigation of the English. As I hold the commission of a Civil Judge, it was, of course, to be my duty to protect him against the pretended murderer, whom I caused to be arrested and held in custody. I availed myself of this circumstance to communicate to Connelly my fear of not being able to answer for the security of his person, and I expressed my doubts whether he could escape with his life. It alarmed him so much, that he begged me to give him an escort to conduct him out of our territory, which I readily assented to, and on the 20th of November, he recrossed the Ohio on his way back to Detroit. I did not dismiss him without having previously impressed upon him the propriety of informing me, in as short a time as possible, of the ultimate designs of Lord Dorchester. As this man was under the protection of the laws of nations, and as he carefully avoided to commit any offence against our government, I considered the measure I had resorted to as the most appropriate to destroy his hopes with regard to this country, and I think that the relation he will make on his return to Canada will produce the desired effect. But should the British be disposed to renew the same attempt, as it may very well turn out to be the case, I shall be ready to oppose and crush it in the bud.
"Thus, sir, you see realized the opinions I expressed in my memorial relatively to the views which Great Britain had on this part of the country. But whilst I reveal to you the designs of that power, permit me a few reflections on the conduct of France with regard to these settlements. I know that the family compact will p238 compel her to assist Spain against any hostility whatever. May not Spain, however, be exposed to suffer from the subtle policy and machinations of the most intriguing and craftiest of all nations? It is to my knowledge that the Court of Versailles has, for years past, been collecting every sort of information on this district, and that it would give a great deal to recover its possessions on the Mississippi. In the year 1785, a Knight of St. Louis, named D'Argès,23 arrived at the falls of the Ohio, gave himself out for a naturalist, and pretended that his object was to inquire about the curious productions of this country, but his manner of living contradicted his assertion. He made few acquaintances, lived very retired, and during one year that he remained there, he never went out of Louisville, where he resided, farther than •six miles. On his perusing the first memorial which the people of this district presented to the Legislature of Virginia on the question of separation, he expressed his admiration that there should be in so new a country a writer capable of framing such a composition, and, after having made some reflexions on the progressive importance of our settlements, he exclaimed with enthusiasm: 'Good God! my country has been blind, but its eyes shall soon be open!' The confidential friend of this gentleman was a Mr. Tardiveau, who had resided many years in Kentucky. D'Argès used to draw drafts on M. de Marbois, then Consul of France at New York, and, finally, he lived as one who belonged to the family of Count de Moustier, the French minister, and I am informed from a good source, that he presented to this same Count de Moustier a very elaborate memorial on these settlements, which was forwarded to the Court of France.
"Perhaps, sir, you will think this information frivolous, p239 but I am sure you will believe that it proceeds from my devoted zeal for the interests of Spain. Please remember that trifles as light as air frequently are, for the faithful and the zealous, proofs as strong as those of Holy Writ.
"Before closing this letter, I shall take the liberty to observe that, in order to secure the success of our schemes, the most entire confidence must be reposed in your agent here, because, without it, his representations will be received with suspicion, and his recommendations disregarded, or executed with tardy precaution, — which is capable of defeating the most ably devised plan. Whether I possess that confidence or not is what I am ignorant of, but the Almighty, who reads the hearts of all men, knows that I deserve it, because nobody ever undertook a cause with more honest zeal and devotion than I have this one. You may therefore conceive the anxiety which I feel on account of the silence of your government on my memorial, and I infinitely regret that some communication, in relation to this part of the country, should not be transmitted through Louisiana, because I know that the negotiation may be conducted through that channel with more secrecy and with better results.
"I deem it useless to mention to a gentleman well versed in political history, that the great spring and prime mover in all negotiations is money. Although not being authorized by you to do so, yet I found it necessary to use this lever, in order to confirm some of our most eminent citizens in their attachment to our cause, and to supply others with the means of operating with vigor. For these objects I have advanced five thousand dollars out of my own funds, and half of this sum, applied opportunely, would attract Marshall and p240 Muter on our side, but it is now impossible for me to disburse it.
"I shall not write you again before the month of May, unless some unexpected event should require it. At that time, I will inform you of the decision of Virginia and of Congress on our last application, and I do not doubt but that our affairs will soon assume a smiling aspect."
General St. Clair's letter to Major Dunn, to which Wilkinson alluded in his preceding communication, was dated December 5, 1788. "Dear Dunn," said he, "I am much grieved to hear that there are strong dispositions on the part of the people of Kentucky to break off their connection with the United States, and that our friend Wilkinson is at the head of this affair. Such a consummation would involve the United States in the greatest difficulties, and would completely ruin this country. Should there be any foundation for these reports, for God's sake, make use of your influence to detach Wilkinson from that party."
On the 14th of February, 1789, two days after he had written the despatch to Mirò, in which he said that he would remain silent until the month of May next, unless some unforeseen circumstance should require him to resume his pen, Wilkinson thus addressed the Spanish Governor:
"My much esteemed and honored friend: having written to you on the 12th instant, with all the formality and respect due to the Governor of Louisiana as the representative of his Sovereign, I will now address the man I love and the friend I can trust, without ceremony or reserve.
"If you have felt some surprise, perplexity and disquietude produced by the silence of the ministry on my p241 memorial, and if you have not received satisfactory news from our dear friend, Don Martin Navarro,24 I believe that I may say to you that you ought to be satisfied, because it seems that our plan has been eagerly accepted. Don Diego Gardoqui, about the month of March last, received from his court ample powers to make with the people of this district the arrangements he might think proper, in order to estrange them from the United States and induce them to form an alliance with Spain. I received this information, in the first place, from Mr. Brown, the member of Congress for this district, who, since the taking into consideration of our application to be admitted into the Union has been suspended, entered into some free communications on this matter with Don Diego Gardoqui. He returned here in September last, and, finding that there had been some opposition to our project, he almost abandoned the cause in despair, and positively refused to advocate in public the propositions of Don Diego Gardoqui, as he deemed them fatal to our cause. Brown is one of our deputies or agents; he is a young man of respectable talents, but timid, without political experience, and with very little knowledge of the world. Nevertheless, as he firmly perseveres in his adherence to our interests, we have sent him to the new Congress, apparently as our representative, but in reality as a spy on the actions of that body. I would myself have undertaken that charge, but I did not, for two reasons: first, my presence was necessary here, and next, I should have found myself under the obligation of swearing to support the new government, which I am in duty bound to oppose.
"The intrusting of that negotiation to Don Diego Gardoqui in preference to you has been a most unfortunate p242 circumstance, because this gentleman does not use his powers with prudence. He gives passports to everybody, and, instead of forming connections with men of influence in this district, who should be interested in favoring his designs, he negotiates with individuals who live in the Atlantic States, who therefore have no knowledge of this section of the country, and have no interest in it.
"When Major Dunn arrived at Philadelphia, he found that his wife and children had gone to Rhode Island. In his journey thither, he passed through New York, and Don Diego Gardoqui sent for him and put him several questions on the circumstances relative to this district and the object of his last voyage to New Orleans. Gardoqui plied Dunn with the most friendly offers; he said that he would not confine his good intentions to the granting of passports, but would render what services might be necessary; that he would also act with equal liberality towards Dunn and Dunn's friends; and would bestow upon them much more important favors than could the Governor of Louisiana, because he had more extensive powers. The Major, with much prudence, warded off his inquiries, and promised writing him from this district. But Gardoqui's eagerness rose to such a pitch, that he pursued the Major to Philadelphia with a letter, the original of which I inclose to you (No. 1). The Major, in his visit to Gardoqui, discovered that there were various individuals and companies who courted the favor of the Minister, in order to obtain the faculty of making settlements on the Mississippi and participate in the advantages of our commerce. When Dunn reached Kentucky and gave me this information, it struck me it was necessary that he should return immediately to New York, and see Don Diego Gardoqui, in order to change this Minister's ideas, p243 which, if persisted in, would be contrary to our great designs, and in order to suggest to him the true policy which he ought to pursue. With a view to removing every cause of distrust or unfavorable impressions from Gardoqui's mind, I wrote to him the letter of which I send you a copy (Doc. No. 2), and I flatter myself, my esteemed friend, that it will meet your approbation. The Major carries with him a petition, to obtain, on the Yazoo and the Mississippi, the concession of land to which I alluded in my last letter. It is the most advantageous site to form a settlement above Natchez. That petition is signed by Innis, Sebastian, Dunn, Brown, and myself. Our intention is to make an establishment on the ground mentioned in my communication of the 12th, and with a view to destroy the plan of a certain Colonel Morgan.
"This Colonel Morgan resides for the present with his family, in the vicinity of Princeton in New Jersey, but twenty or twenty-five years ago he used to trade with the Indians at Kaskaskia, in copartnership with Baynton and Whaiton. He is a man of education and possesses an intelligent mind, but he is a deep and thorough speculator. He has already become twice a bankrupt, and according to the information which I have lately received, he is now in extremely necessitous circumstances, &c. &c. He was sent by a New Jersey Company to New York, in order to negotiate with Congress the purchase of a vast tract of land comprising Cahokia and Kaskaskia. But whilst this affair was pending, he found it to his interest to deal with Don Diego Gardoqui, and he discovered that it was more advantageous for him to shift his negotiation from the United States to Spain. The result was, that he obtained, forsooth, the most extraordinary concession, which extends along the Mississippi, from the mouth of the St. Francis river to point Cinq p244 Hommes, in the West, containing •from twelve to fifteen millions of acres. I have not seen Morgan, nor am I acquainted with the particulars of his contract, but I have set a spy after him since his coming to these parts and his going down the river to take possession of his new province, and through that spy, I have collected the following information: "that the intention of Morgan is to build a city on the west bank of the Mississippi, as near the mouth of the Ohio as the nature of the ground may permit; that he intends selling his lands by small or large lots for a shilling an acre; that Don Diego Gardoqui pays all the costs of that establishment, and has undertaken to make that new town a free port, to intercept all the productions of this country, on the most advantageous terms he may be able to secure from our people. Morgan departed from here, in the beginning of this month, to take possession of his territory, to survey it, and fix the site of the town, which will be called New Madrid. He took with him two surveyors, and from forty to fifty persons besides; but not one of them was from Kentucky. This is all that he could do. In a political point of view Morgan's establishment can produce no good result, but, on the contrary, will have the most pernicious consequences; because the Americans who may settle there, will, on account of their proximity to, and their constant intercourse with their countrymen, of this side of the river, retain their old prejudices and feelings, and will continue to be Americans as if they were on the banks of the Ohio. On the other side, the intention of detaining the productions of this vast country at a point so distant from their real market, whilst the Americans shall remain the carriers of that trade, cannot fail to cause discontents and to embroil the two countries in difficulties. Probably it will destroy the noble fabric of which we have laid out the foundations, and which p245 we are endeavoring to complete. If it be deemed necessary to keep the Americans at a distance from Louisiana, let the Spaniards at least be the carriers of the produce they receive in their ports, and of the merchandise which is acceptable to the Americans. In this way will be formed an impenetrable barrier, without any costs to the king, because, in less than thirty years, his Catholic Majesty will have on the river thirty thousand boatmen at least, whom it will be easy to equip and to convert into armed bodies, to assist in the defence of the province, from whatever quarter it may be threatened.
"I am informed that Morgan intends visiting you, as soon as he shall have finished the survey of the lands conceded to him. Permit me to supplicate you, my most esteemed of friends, not to give him any knowledge of my plans, sentiments or designs. It is long since he has become jealous of me, and you may rest assured that, in reality, he is not well affected towards our cause, but that he allows himself to be entirely ruled by motives of the vilest self interest, and therefore that he will not scruple, on his return to New York, to destroy me. One of the objects of Major Dunn, in seeing Gardoqui, is to sound him on this affair, and I doubt not but that he will do so successfully. I expect him back in the beginning of April, he having departed from here on the 17th of January, and I having heard of his safe arrival on the other side of the mountains. Immediately after his return, I shall either go in person and visit you, or I shall send you an all-trusty friend.
"As Don Diego Gardoqui has given passports to all those who applied for any, you must expect that various individuals will come down the river in the course of the season, but you must take care, my honored friend, to repose confidence in none but such as will deliver you a letter from me, because I will furnish with one every p246 man of merit, veracity and influence. I presume that there must now be in New Orleans a certain Peter Paulus, who is sent from Philadelphia, where he kept soul and body together by being an obscure tavern keeper. There are now here a Mr. Dorsey and a Mr. Paulin, with passports from Gardoqui and letters for you from Dr. Franklin and Thomas Miflin, Governor of Pennsylvania. These two individuals are citizens of Philadelphia, where they kept a dry goods store. Having both become bankrupts, they brought some effects to Kentucky, and have exchanged them for productions of the country, which they will carry down to New Orleans, in order to make a few dollars out of his Catholic Majesty and take them back to their families at Philadelphia. Such are, my esteemed friend, the new comers who produce Gardoqui's credentials. Your own judgment must tell you that they can have no weight in the important question we have on hand. Why then should they have rewards and privileges? And such men have the audacity to suppose that they will obtain leave from you to do whatever they please!
"Herein inclosed (Doc. No. 3), you will find two Gazettes which contain all the proceedings of our last Convention. You will observe that the memorial to Congress was presented by me, and perhaps your first impression will be that of surprise at such a document having issued from the pen of a good Spaniard. But, on further reflection, you will discover that my policy is to justify in the eye of the world our meditated separation from the rest of the Union, and quiet the apprehensions of some friends in the Atlantic States, the better to divide them, because, know how impossible it is that the United States should obtain what we aspire to, not only did I gratify my sentiments and inclinations, but I also framed my memorial in such a style as was p247 best calculated to excite the passions of our people; and convince them that Congress has neither the power nor the will to enforce their claims and pretensions. Thus having energetically and publicly represented our rights and lucidly established our pretensions, if Congress does not support them with efficacy (which you know it cannot do, even if it had the inclination), not only will all the people of Kentucky, but also the whole world, approve of our seeking protection from another quarter.
"Your favoring the fitting out of the boat destined for this part of the country will, no doubt, meet the approbation of his majesty, because truly, my friend, this is an important point gained to convince the people of Kentucky that, instead of sending their money across the mountains in order to purchase their various necessities, they can with advantage procure them in New Orleans, in exchange for their produce and one better terms. Adieu, my dearest friend! To‑morrow I go to the falls of Ohio, in order to despatch my boats."
The letter to Gardoqui, to which Wilkinson alluded, and of which he sent a copy to Mirò, had been written on the 1st of January, 1789, and was couched in these terms:
"Sir, I venture to address you this letter, under the supposition that my correspondence will not be undervalued in your estimation, when you are informed that, although not personally known to you, I have been one of the first and most active agents to promote the political designs which you seem to entertain in relation to this country; that, in support of those projects which aim at securing the reciprocal happiness of the Spaniard of Louisiana and of the American of Kentucky, I have25 voluntarily sacrificed my domestic felicities, my time, p248 my fortune, my comforts, and, what is more, have given up promoting my personal fame and political character. In the pursuit of the object which I have in view, I trespass upon your attention under the firm persuasion that you will excuse the liberty I take, and which originates from my zeal for the prosperity of Louisiana and Kentucky, and that, whatever be the result of this affair, what I am going to communicate to you will remain for ever locked up in your breast.
"You may not have forgotten that, during the winter of 1787, the Baron de Steuben applied to you, in order to obtain a passport for a gentleman who wished to visit Louisiana, by descending the river Mississippi. You, at first, gave your assent, but withdrew it afterwards. I do not know whether my name was mentioned to you at the time, but the evidence resulting from my having possession of the very letter in which you excused yourself to the Baron, and which he sent to me, in order to show why his application on my behalf had no effect, will convince you that he who now addresses you is the same individual for whom the Baron acted. Your refusal, however, did not put an end to my design, and I determined to venture on visiting New Orleans, ostensibly for commercial purposes, but in reality for the following reasons:
"An intimate knowledge and a comparative analysis of the relative local circumstances of the Atlantic and Western States did not leave in my mind the slightest doubt, even on the very threshold of my investigation, that their interests were of an opposite character and their policy irreconcilable. Having established my family in Kentucky, where I had acquired a large tract of land, I foresaw that I had nothing to hope from the Union. Under this impression, I considered that it was my duty to look anywhere else, for the patronage and p249 protection which the prosperity and happiness of our extensive establishments required imperatively. With this view,26 I entered the jurisdiction of the government of Louisiana, and also with the determination to run the risk of encountering judicial difficulties,27 in case my propositions were rejected, and then to open a negotiation with Great Britain, which had already been active in the matter. But, truly, the manner in which the Governor and the Intendant received me removed all my apprehensions, and led to a free and reciprocal communication of confidential thoughts and sentiments. Really, their urbanity and caressing attentions to me28 inspired my heart with the warmest attachment for their persons, whilst my observations in relation to the clemency, the justice and energy of their government forced me to make comparisons, which were far from being favorable to the turbulent licence in which we live. With the permission of these gentlemen, I reduced to writing my views on the situation, circumstances, aspirations and interests of the country in which I live, on the policy of the Atlantic States in reference thereto, and on the designs of Great Britain, with copious reflections on the true interest of his Catholic Majesty and the system he ought to pursue in order to secure and extend his colony of Louisiana. This essay or memorial, according to my express desire, was forwarded direct from New Orleans to Madrid, in September, 1787. As this affair was to me of the utmost importance, and as I was not acquainted with your political p250 views, I refused my consent to its being communicated to you, and I trusted to the honor and discretion of the Spanish ministry for my security, in case my propositions should be disapproved.
"The negotiation having commenced in this way, I expressed the desire to know its result through no other channel. This disposition of my mind proceeded from my reliance on Mirò and Navarro, and from the opinion which I have not yet relinquished, that this affair may be managed through them in such a way as entirely to avoid exciting the suspicions of Congress. But it seems that the Cabinet of Madrid has deemed proper to pursue the ordinary and regular course, and that you have received powers in the premises. This makes it absolutely necessary for the success of our plans, that I should open a correspondence with you, and I flatter myself that these circumstances will justify the step which I take, in the eyes of my dear and honorable friends Don Estevan Mirò and Don Martin Navarro, because you may rest assured that, for no human consideration, I would run the risk of losing their friendship or good opinion.
"On my return from Louisiana, I went through Virginia last winter, and wrote to you a complimentary letter, the object of which was to open a correspondence with you. But it was intercepted; hence the necessity of my going into these details, in order to make fully known to you the individual who now aspires to your confidence.
"In conclusion, I beg leave to refer myself in general terms to my friend, Major Dunn, who will present to you various authentic documents in relation to your plan, and which it would be imprudent to mention in writing. I hope that you will not blame this precaution on my part, if you reflect on the fluctuation and mutability of p251 human affairs; because, if the Court of Spain, as the rumor runs, has unfortunately ceded the Floridas and the island of New Orleans to Great Britain, a new theatre will be open for new actors, and other measures must be taken. It is not necessary29 to suggest to a gentleman of your experience and knowledge, that man, throughout the world, is governed by private interest, however variously modified it may be. Some men are avaricious, some are vain, others are ambitious. To detect the predominant passion, to lay hold and to make the most of it, is the most profound secret of political science.
"The Major will communicate to you what we have agreed upon in relation to the application which he is to lay before you. He will tell you in detail the measures which I have taken in this district, the effects they have produced, and the present temper of the people, and if you can have faith30 in the system which he will develop to you, and if you help it on with vigor, I pledge, from to‑day, my life, fame, and fortune, to answer for the success which I promise."
Peter Paulus, of whom Wilkinson speaks in his letter of the 14th of February, had arrived in New Orleans. He had with him thirty-four persons, and, for having procured them to emigrate, he obtained as a reward $350 from Governor Mirò. He offered to bring to Louisiana three thousand families on certain conditions, among which one of the principal was, that the king of Spain should pay all the expenses incidental to their removal, p252 and that the trial by jury be allowed to the new colonists. "This," said Mirò, "I have positively refused, because it would cost millions to his majesty. But I had a long conversation with Paulus,31 in which I explained to him the drivings which the Ohio people would find in establishing themselves in the province, wherefore those who had the most means among them ought immediately to take that step, because they would infallibly, in a few years, reach a state of opulence. I endeavored also to convince him, that no monarchy in the world could go to the immense expense of maintaining and supporting the ever increasing number of families that would indubitably present themselves, if they were granted the assistance which was solicited for them, and which they were given to understand that they would obtain. I remarked to him that, if, without any aid, the stream of emigration continued to flow so abundantly from the Atlantic states to this side of the Apalachian mountains, the emigrants had stronger motives to rely on their own resources when coming to this province, where lands were given to them gratis, and where the industrious were sure to become prosperous under a mild government, which would afford them support and protection, and where they would enjoy the advantage of an easy outlet for their produce.
"This Peter Paulus is a Dutchman by birth; he appears to be fifty years old; his face seems to indicate that he is an honest man, his language, although dull and unpolished, is stamped with much apparent sincerity. The families he proposes to bring along with him are Germans, who reside a considerable distance above Kentucky.32
But Paulus replied, that he had been induced by p253 Gardoqui and his agents to hold out very different hopes to the emigrants, and that if, on his return to them, he altered his language, they would consider him as an impostor.
Regretting the imprudence of Gardoqui, who had allowed his zeal to incite him to a course which might be fatal to his Majesty's interest, and on which he commented at length in one of his despatches to his government, Governor Mirò said to Paulus: "I have no power to send any emissary to promote emigration from the United States, and therefore I cannot encourage your pretensions, nor those of the people you represent. I can only receive the foreigners who may come spontaneously and of their own free will, to swear themselves the vassals of his Catholic Majesty. To them surveyed lands shall be granted gratis, in proportion to the laborers of whom the family may consist. The smallest concession shall not be less than •200 arpens — 400 to families of four to ten laborers, and 800 to those numbering from ten to fifteen hands or more."
Although not willing to pay for the expenses of emigration on so large a scale, Governor Mirò consented to certain disbursements, in order to increase the population of Louisiana. For instance, the vessel, the Conception, having arrived from Philadelphia, with 173 emigrants, he established 133 of them in the Feliciana district at the cost of the royal treasury.33
On the 11th of April, he forwarded to Madrid, with his comments, Wilkinson's two letters, which I have quoted, and the documents annexed to them. In that communication he represents, that he shares Wilkinson's opinion that the independence of the Western people, under the protection of, and in close alliance with, Spain, p254 would be more to the interest of his Majesty than their annexation to his domains, on account of the expenses and responsibilities which such an acquisition would entail on Spain, and also on account of the jealousies and opposition which it would elicit from foreign powers. He urgently presses the cabinet of Madrid to send him instructions as to the course to be pursued by him, in case the Western people should declare their independence and send delegates to him. He further remarks that he is totally unprepared to supply them with the ammunition, arms, and other implements of which they may stand in need to resist any action of the Federal Government, should it attempt to coerce them into submission.
"In the paragraph B.," said he to the Minister, "you will find an account of the bold act which General Wilkinson has ventured upon, in presenting his first memorial in a public convention. In so doing, he has so completely bound himself, that, should he not be able to obtain the separation of Kentucky from the United States, it has become impossible for him to live in it, unless he has suppressed, which is possible, certain passages which might injure him. Nevertheless, on account of the opposition made by Marshall and Muter to Wilkinson's plan, the Convention determined that new memorials be presented to Virginia and to Congress, to obtain the independence of Kentucky, its admission into the Union, and the free navigation of the Mississippi. On these two first questions, I disagree with Wilkinson as to their solution, and I am of opinion that the independence of these people from Virginia and their reception into the Union will be conceded to them, and that the answer of Congress on this subject is not deceitful, because the right of Kentucky to what she claims is incontestable, and is derived from the articles of confederacy p255 on which the United States established their first government."
Mirò declared that, with Wilkinson, he thought it was a stroke of bad policy on the part of the Spanish government, to have granted to the inhabitants of Kentucky the use of the navigation of the Mississippi, although under the restriction of a duty of fifteen per cent, because, rather than being deprived altogether of that channel for the exit of their produce, they would not have hesitated to renounce all allegiance to Congress. He informed his government that he had lately written in cypher to Wilkinson, through one Jennings, a confidential agent, that emigration to Louisiana was to be encouraged by all means, whilst, at the same time, the other plan of the independence, or annexation of Kentucky, was to be steadily kept in mind. "You will render a great service to the king," he wrote to Wilkinson, "if you induce to come down here a large number of families, having some property and not needing pecuniary assistance, but only lands. It is proper, however, that you should remain in that district, in order to insist on the plan of an alliance with Spain, until it be effected or be given up; because, according to the answer received from the Court, you are now our agent, and I am instructed to give you to hope that the king will reward your services as I have already intimated to you."34
He continues saying, that Wilkinson seems averse to this mode of peopling the colony, but that he, Mirò, cannot share Wilkinson's views in that respect, and that the emigrants have more means, and are of a better character, than Wilkinson gives them credit for. He p256 confirms what Wilkinson relates of the intrigues of the English in Kentucky, and dwells on the service rendered by Wilkinson, in driving away Colonel Connelly with so much diplomatic skill and by a well-devised subterfuge. He recommends that the five thousand dollars which Wilkinson declared having spent for the benefit of Spain be refunded to him, and that he be further intrusted with the two thousand five hundred dollars which he asked for, to corrupt Marshall and Muter.
In the mean time, Wilkinson's launches had arrived in New Orleans, and, in that same despatch of the 11th of April, Mirò informed the Spanish government that he had bought from the General, for the account of the royal treasury, 235,000 pounds of tobacco, for which transaction he begged the approbation of his Majesty, "on the ground that it was important to keep the General contented."35
1 En el dia se mantienen los Indios convencidos de la ambicion de los Americanos; la memoria de las pasadas injurias que les han hecho, subsiste, y con ella el recelo de que, algun dia, se apoderarian de sus tierras, y despojaràn de una propriedad que creen pertenecer les por un derecho de naturaleza, en cuyo pensamiento es conveniente y debera ser el punto principal de nuestro Gobierno hacerles perseverar.
2 De que tenemos la llave, y otras la utilidad.
4 Es cuanto puedo informar en este asunto.
5 No hay que perder tiempo. Mejico está de la otra orilla del Mississippi, en las immediaciones de estos hoy formidables establecimientos de Americanos. El modo de contrarestarlos es una poblacion proporcionada, y esta no se forma con restricciones, sino con alguna prudente libertad en el comercio.
6 Hablo a vuestra Excellencia lleno del espiritu patriotico de que estoy revestido; mis intenciones son los intereses de mi soberano. Miro la provincia de la Luisiana como una porcion de su propriedad, y quisiera persuadir con toda mi razon a que se fomente, pues en cada pueblo de los inumerables que nos dominan por natural situacion, se prepara contra esta provincia un nublado que descargará (p184)algun dia, y seria mucho mas el perjuicio, si por desgracia inundase las tierras de Nueva España.
7 A title recently conferred upon the celebrated minister, Don José Galvez.
8 Cortar la alas del progreso.
9 Poderosos motivos para una nacion inquieta, pobre, ambiciosa y arriscada.
10 Navarro's despatch of the 19th of December, 1787.
11 Creyendo las Señoras bajadas del Cielo y suponiendolas todas hermanas. — Navarro's despatch.
12 Y podemos ya con seguridad afirmar que todas estas naciones estan á nuestra devocion, y tambien decir que los Americanos no haran por este lado mucho progreso.
13 Pero no me atrevo á abrasar el primer partido, por que puede D'Argès considerar que los grandes projectos de Wilkinson destruirian el merito del suyo, y precipitarse (lo que cabe en lo posible), á confiarlos á alguno capaz de influir á que se arestase Wilkinson como criminal, y tambien por que este se disgustariá mucho de que otro tuviese parte en una confianza de que depende su vida y honor, como el mismo expresa en su memoria.
14 This cannot be the memorial openly given to Mirò by Wilkinson, and to which Butler refers in his History of Kentucky, but must be the other secret document of which the existence was rumored at the time.
15 Mirò's despatch of the 1st of April, 1788.
16 Quere, Villers?
17 Most of these despatches, if not all, were originally in cypher; they are to be found at length and in Spanish in the archives of Spain. Copies made in compliance with a resolution of the Legislature of the State of Louisiana, under the supervision of M. de Gayangos, a gentleman distinguished for his learning and literary works, and also under the direction of his Excellency Romulus Saunders, who was then the U. S. Minister Plenipotentiary at Madrid, are deposited in the office of the Secretary of State at Baton Rouge.
18 The name is thus spelt in the Spanish manuscript.
19 Jose de Galvez, Marquis de la Sonora, died in 1786.
20 Procurar la dicha de los habitantes de ese mundo occidental, siempre que conozcan sus propios intereses, y segunden mis movimientos, sin perdida de tiempo.
21 Mirò's despatch, August 28th, 1788.
22 El consolidar los intereses, y establecer la confianza de nuestros amigos; el probar nuestras fuerzas; familiarizar el pueblo con el asunto; desvanecer el terror que la novedades interesantes generalmente inspiran; y el excitar el resentimiento del Congreso con la esperanza de inducir a este cuerpo á algun acto de politica invidiosa que pudiese irritar los animos del pueblo, estos son los motivos que me influyeron y à los que dejo mi justificacion.
23 The same of whom Mirò speaks, and who was one of the secret agents of the Spanish Government.
24 It will be remembered that Navarro had returned to Spain the preceding year.
25 He sacrificado voluntariamente mis domesticas felicidades, tiempo, bienes, comodidades, y lo que es mas importante, abandoné al hacer personal y caracter político.
26 Con este intento me dirijé al gobierno de la Luisiana, determinado al mismo tiempo en la alternativa de que, si se desechasen mis proposiciones, correría el riesgo de una contestacion civil, y abriría una negotiacion con la Gran Bretaña, por la que se habian dado ya pasos sobre el asunto.
27 He alludes, no doubt, to the expected seizure of the cargo of tobacco with which he had gone down to New Orleans, without passport or permission.
28 Sus urbanas y cariñosas atenciones.
29 No es necesario sugerir á un caballero de los conocimientos y experiencia de V. S. que el genero humano, en cualquiera parte, se gobierna por su propio interés, aunque variamente modificado. Unos son sordidos, algunos vanos, otros ambiciosos; escoger, tomar y sacar ventajas de la pasion predominante es lo mas profundo de la ciencia politica.
30 Y si V. S. puede fiarse al sistema que le esplicara y apoyarle vigorosamente, desde luego empeño mi vida, fama y fortuna para responder del suceso.
31 Mirò's despatch of the 15th of March, 1789.
32 Probably in Pennsylvania.
33 Mirò's despatch of the 15th of March, 1789.
34 Pero conviene se mantenga V. S. en ese distrito, para instar sobre el projecto de la conexion, hasta que se verifique, ó desvanesca; pues que ya segun la repuesta de la Corte, es V. S. nuestro agente, y se me ordena le de á V. S. esperanzas de que el Rey lo recompensará como ya le tengo insinuado.
35 Mediante á lo mucho que importa el tener contento al dicho Brigadier.
a Sic: the total as given is 31,433 but the column adds to 31,423. Despite repeated proofreading and adding, I can't find the mistake. On the off chance that the mistake is in fact mine, and that you will have better luck and let me know what the problem is, here is a scan of the table in the 1867 edition.
b Gayarré will tell us a bit more about the background and career of this Franco-Scottish Creek chieftain in Part III, chapter 6; a clearer and more succinct summary can be read in H. J. Ford, Washington and His Colleagues, pp83‑84; yet another, equally good, to which I've added his portrait by Trumbull, is found in C. L. Skinner, Pioneers of the Old Southwest, pp255‑259; and his involvement in the politics of the American frontier is covered in considerable detail in Whitaker's The Spanish-American Frontier, 1783‑1795, chapters 3‑4 and 8‑11.
c And so our author comes to Gen. Wilkinson for the first time; over the next hundred pages or so, Gayarré will expose him as one of the most accomplished villains ever seen on the soil of this country: the ample, detailed, documented proofs of the man's duplicity and treachery, which Gayarré is rightly proud to have unearthed, during his own curiously mysterious exile in Europe, in the archives of Spain, seems crystal-clear, and it is Charles Gayarré's lead that most modern historians follow.
Most, however, is not by any means all: James Wilkinson is in fact one of the most enigmatic and controversial figures in American history, and there is another side to the story — or, most likely, considering his own chameleon tastes and talents, there are many other sides. I've therefore given him a subsite of his own, where the various opinions, always strongly held, can be splayed out for all to examine: James Wilkinson, A Study in Controversy.
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