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with that political blindness which had long cursed her councils, that success would only give her colonial possessions a more dangerous neighbor. It appears probable, indeed, that most of the recipients of her bribes in the western States played false to her from the first. They had no intention of becoming subservient to Spain. Their grand idea appears to have been not only to dismember the United States, but also Mexico; or rather, they proposed to unite Mexico with the western American States, and thus build up a vast empire from the Alleghanies to the Pacific, which should be equally independent of Spain and the United States.
These projects perhaps hardly reached the maturity of definite plans—they scarcely rose above hopes—until Burr came to arrange and combine the elements of conspiracy, and take the lead in its execution. He was precisely the leader to inspire confidence among these restless and debauched adventurers, and he seems to bave habitually relied on such men to effect his objects.'
Burr possessed much cunning and much penetration of a particular kind; but, like most wholly unprincipled men, he overrated the power of evil. He believed every man and woman had their easy price. He therefore relied on personal appliances, and petty intrigue and finessing, to attain objects wholly beyond the reach of such means. He baited mousetraps, expecting to catch elephants in them. His life-long history is an exemplification of this trait of mind, and it is a lifelong roll of failures. In every great crisis of his career we find him with intense cunning in his look, and mystery in his rapid movements, setting his little traps. But he was always just wise enough to be outgeneralled when he came in contact with a wise man; he was always just artful enough to beat himself. Without any attempts to be cunning, and by mere force of his abilities, and a straightforward life, he might have been far more successful. He loved intrigue for its own sake. There was a fascination in it which blinded his judgment. He was ready to embark in it, and was sanguine of success, where a
We do not, by any means, intend to say, that Burr had not, at different periods, among his particular friends and supporters, some highly honorable men. remarks apply to the class who will be found almost invariably foremost in the execution of his schemes and personal objects.
man of less astuteness, but without his taste for plotting, would have foreseen the certainty of defeat. It takes another trait to complete the character of a rash and ready conspirator. He was proverbially insensible to danger. He was willing to risk his life to carry out the inost paltry amour. He was willing to risk it a thousand times in any desperate effort for fortune and power, rather than glide along smoothly in the current of a common success. When we consider his peculiar character, and weigh testimony adduced at his subsequent trial, which was not impeached, or even rendered the subject of a just suspicion, little doubt seems to remain that he contemplated a dismemberment of the Union as a direct result of his enterprise, or rather as a contingent result, which was to follow, if success crowned the first branch of the undertaking.
In August, 1806, Burr again went to the western States. In Kentucky he purchased, or pretended to purchase, of Mr. Charles Lynch, a large tract of land near Nachitoches, which the Spanish Governor of New Orleans had ceded to “Baron P. N. Tat Bastrop," before the sale of Louisiana; and by the conditions of the grant it was to be settled by a certain number of
persons within a fixed time nearly expired. Burr agreed to pay $50,000 for the land. It would be remarkable that a bankrupt in fortune, avowedly on the eve of attempting the conquest or revolution of Mexico--an undertaking requiring money, and which, if successful, would bring land enough-should pause to divide means raised on credit in such a “speculation.” It is not credible. It seems to have been intended as a pretext to enable him to collect the men he desired without interruption from the civil authorities, and probably to fall back upon for safety in case that interruption should take place, and an attempt be
1 The only fact brought to bear against Eaton's testimony was, that after he had exposed Burr's proposals to him, the Government settled his claims for disbursements, etc., in the Barbary war, allowing him $10,000. Eaton had before been pressing his claims, and we presume that no one at this day is ready to believe that he committed a deliberate perjury which might involve the life of a previous friend, for the purpose of obtaining either an earlier or more favorable settlement! And Eaton's testimony was amply confirmed in all its essential substance by that of Colonel Morgan and his two sons, General and Thomas Morgan of Cannonsburg, Ohio. No more respectable men, and few better known men, resided in that State. On Burr's journey west, in 1806, they received him in all honor, as a distinguished friend. His first day's stay at Col. Morgan's was marked by such disclosures that that gentleman conceived it his duty to immediately lay them before the judges of a court sitting in the neighborhood. The judges communicated the facts to the President, advising that Burr be watched. Not the most trivial fact was fished up at the trial which tended to cast a shadow of suspicion on the credi. bility or perfectly honest intentious of the Morgans.
made to punish him either for treason or a violation of our neutrality laws.
In the fall of 1806, Blennerhasset and other agents of Burr in the region of Marietta, Ohio, contracted for the building of boats, purchased quantities of meal, kiln-dried it for a voyage, enlisted such men as they could induce to join them, formed a military encampment at Blennerhasset's Island, received chests of weapons there from some higher point on the Ohio, and were joined by armed and organized parties also from above. They made no secret of the fact that they were acting in concert with and under the leadership of Burs. To some persons they declared that their object was the conquest of Mexico, of which Burr was to be king-to others the settlement of the Bastrop grantand to others, the formation of a new western empire, which was to include Mexico, Louisiana, and that portion of the United States west of the Alleghanies. It was clearly, nay, indisputably proved that Blennerhasset avowed the latter project to confidential friends whom he attempted to draw into the enterprise. He wrote articles for one of the few newspapers west of the mountains, advocating a separation of the western from the eastern States. He and his associates continually declaimed against the connection, complaining how much the West had to pay for the support of the Government, without receiving any benefit in return.
General Wilkinson, by order of the President, had collected five or six hundred soldiers at Nachitoches to oppose a threatened Spanish irruption.
This officer was needy in means, expensive in his habits, and was supposed not to be averse to speculating adventures. He and Burr were familiar acquaintances; and the latter seems to have confidently expected to make him an accomplice. They corresponded vaguely on the subject during the summer, Burr assuming, perhaps to make his communications more safe from exposure, that his correspondent knew a good deal more of his plans than was actually disclosed : and Wilkinson, afterwards, alleging that his object was to allow Burr to communicate something which would prove his real designs.
Wilkinson must be won, or he would crush the expedition at the outset; and the time arrived which required a decisive experiment. In October a younger brother of Colonel John
Swartwout of New York reached Wilkinson's camp at Natchitoches, ostensibly to bear a letter of introduction from Jonathan Dayton to Colonel Cushing, the second in command, but carrying secret dispatches in cipher from both Dayton and Burr to Wilkinson. Burr wrote Wilkinson:
“ Yours, postmarked 13th of May, is received. I, Aaron Burr, have obtained funds, and have actually commenced the enterprise. Detachments from different points, and under different pretences, will rendezvous on the Ohio, 1st November -everything internal and external, favors views; protection of England is secured.
- is going to Jamaica to arrange with the Admiral on that station; it will meet on the Mississippi. , England, - navy of the United States are ready to join, and final orders are given to my friends and followers: it will be a host of choice spirits. Wilkinson shall be second to Burr only, Wilkinson shall dictate the rank and promotion of his officers. Burr will proceed westward, 1st August, never more to return; with him goes his daughter; the husband will follow in October with a corps of worthies.
“ Send forth an intelligent and confidential friend with whom Burr may confer; he shall return immediately with further interesting details; this is essential to concert and harmony of movement. Send a list of all persons known to Wilkinson, west of the mountains, who may be useful, with a note delineating their characters. By your messenger send me four or five commissions of your officers, which you can borrow under any pretence you please; they shall be returned faithfully. Already are orders to the contractors given to forward six months' provisions to points Wilkinson may name: this shall not be used until the last moment, and then under proper injunctions. The project is brought to the point so long desired. Burr guarantees the result with his life and honor, with the honor, and fortunes of hundreds of the best blood of our country.
“Burr's plan of operation is, to move down rapidly from the falls on the 15th of September, with the first 500 or 1,000 men in light boats, now constructing for that purpose, to be at Natchez between the 5th and 15th of December; there to meet Wilkinson; there to determine whether it will be expedient in the first instance to seize on or pass by Baton Rouge. On receipt of this send an answer. Draw on Burr for all expenses, etc. The people of the country to which we are going, are prepared to receive us. Their agents, now with Burr, say, that if we will protect their religion, and will not subject them to a foreign power, that in three weeks all will be settled. The gods invite to glory and fortune; it remains to be seen whether we deserve the boon. The bearer of this goes express to you; he will hand a formal letter of introduction to you from Burr. He is a man of inviolable honor and perfect discretion ; formed to execute rather than to project; capable of relating facts with fidelity, and incapable of relating them otherwise. He is thoroughly informed of the plans and intentions of Burr, and will disclose to you as far as you inquire, and no farther. He has imbibed a reverence for your character, and may be embarrassed in your presence. Put him at ease, and he will satisfy you."
Dayton wrote Wilkinson (July 24, 1806):
“It is now ascertained that you are to be displaced in next session. Jefferson will affect to yield reluctantly to the public sentiment, but yield he will. Prepare
yourself therefore for it. You know the rest. You are not a man to despair, or even despond, especially when such projects offer in another quarter. ready? Are your numerous associates ready! Wealth and glory-Louisiana and Mexico.
Wilkinson, having deciphered Burr's letter, communicated its contents to Colonel Cushing, announcing his determination to march immediately to the Sabine, and make such terms with the Spaniards as would enable him to send the greater part of his force for the defence of New Orleans, and in the meantime to forward the information he had obtained to the President.
Wilkinson inquired of Swartwout what would be the course of Burr's expedition. “He said this territory (Louisiana) would be revolutionized, where the people were ready to join them, and that there would be some seizing he supposed at New Orleans; that they expected to be ready to embark about the 1st of February, and intended to land at Vera Cruz, and to march from thence to Mexico.” He also intimated that a forced loan would be made from the bank at New Orleans, for the purpose of equipping the expedition.
Wilkinson made an arrangement with the Spaniards, and reached New Orleans on the 25th of November. Claiborne, Governor of Orleans territory, received the following letter, dated November 12th, from General Andrew Jackson, of Tennessee :
"Put your town [New Orleans) in a state of defence, organize your militia, and defend your city as well against internal enemies as external. My knowledge does not extend so far as to authorize me to go into detail, but I fear you will meet an attack from quarters you do not at present expect. Be upon the alert; keep a watchful eye on our General, and beware of an attack as well from your own country as Spain. I fear there is something rotten in the State of Denmark. You have enemies within your own city that may try to subvert your government, and try to separate it from the Union. You know I never hazard ideas without good grounds, you will keep these hints to yourself. But, I say again, be upon the alert ; your government, I fear, is in danger; I fear there are plans on foot inimical to the Union; whether they will be attempted to be carried into effect or not I cannot say, but rest assured they are in operation or I calculate boldly. Beware the month of December. I love my country and government; I hate the Dons; I would delight to see Mexico reduced, but I will die in the last ditch before I would yield a foot to the Dons, or see the Union disunited."
This letter lost none of its force from the fact that it betrayed such strong suspicions of Wilkinson, and that the writer was known to have but recently received and entertained Burr in