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a friendly manner. Suspicions of the former were common in all of those westeru States where Burr and his emissaries had moved. Whatever other reasons might have existed, for this, there was a very obvious one in the fact that wherever the conspirators had attempted to extend their plot, their first declaration had been that Wilkinson and other principal men in the army and navy were their active confederates.
The most alarıning rumors reached New Orleans. Martial law was proclaimed. A meeting of the citizens was held, at which a voluntary embargo was agreed upon to furnish seamen to man the gunboats in the river. The militia was placed under Wilkinson's command, and numerous volunteers offered their services. Strong bodies of troops were kept under arms, and fortifications rapidly erected.
Dr. Bollman, who had communicated with Wilkinson as an avowed emissary of Burr, Swartwout, who had brought Burr's letters to Wilkinson, and Ogden, another active emissary in the conspiracy, were placed under military arrest. Bollman was immediately brought before a judge of the Superior Court by a writ of habeas corpus, and Wilkinson returned to the writ that what he had done had been necessary for the safety of the city, and that he should continue to arrest dangerous persons. He sent Bollman and Swartwout to Washington by sea. Some other arrests took place, and sharp contests arose between the Commander-in-Chief and certain judges—they attempting to discharge his prisoners on habeas corpus, and he resisting their interference, and in one instance placing in confinement not only the counsel for the prisoner, but the judge who issued the process. Altogether, the scene was much like one witnessed a few years later in the same city, when the officer placing himself in conflict with the civil laws was General Andrew Jackson.
In the latter part of September the President had received some intimations of Burr's movements, but they were too vague to admit of any action, except inaintaining a greater watchfulness. Towards the close of October “the objects of the conspiracy began to be perceived, but still so blended and involved in mrstery that nothing distinct could be singled out for pursuit.” 1 The President, however, immediately dispatched a special agent to the scene of operations, clothed with powers to call upon the
1 Special Messoge, January, 220, 1807.
civil and military authorities to take such steps as circumstances should require. Learning that boats and stores were collecting on the Ohio, and that an unusual number of suspicious characters were in motion, he also dispatched orders to the Governors of Orleans and Mississippi territories, and to the commanders of the land and naval forces, to be on the alert and prepared to resist all illegal attempts. Special orders were forwarded to Wilkinson.
The first communication of the latter officer was received by the President, November 25th; and on the 27th he issued a proclamation warning all persons to withdraw from unlawful enterprises, and dispatched orders “ to every intersecting point on the Ohio and Mississippi from Pittsburg to New Orleans" to put the civil authorities in motion, and to direct the employment of the regulars and militia to seize every man and thing connected with Burr's enterprise. As new facts came to light, orders were issued for still wider preparations.
Daviess, the United States Attorney for the district of Kentucky, had, acting on his own information, offered a motion before the District Court sitting at Frankfort, on the third of November, that Burr be brought before the court, to answer a charge of being engaged in an unlawful enterprise. The judge refused to issue the process, but ordered a grand-jury to be impanelled. Burr appeared in court with his counsel, and declared his readiness to meet an immediate investigation. But Daviess could not procure the attendance of his principal witness, and the jury were discharged. On the 25th, the District Attorney applied for a new grand-jury, and subpænaed General Adair to attend as a witness. The latter did not appear.. Daviess moved to be allowed to attend the grand-jury in their room, to examine the witnesses, which he contended was necessary to bring out and explain the connection of testimony in. reference to a plot of which the jury had no knowledge. The motion was denied, and the grand-jury not only threw out the bill, but signed a written declaration expressing their belief that Burr meditated nothing dangerous to the peace and well-being of the United States. A motion was granted that a copy of this paper might be taken for insertion in the newspapers. This triumph of the conspirators was celebrated by a ball at Frank fort; and then Burr and Adair departed together.
This turn of affairs has been thonght, in some measure, due to the talents, consummate address, and high popularity of one of Burr's counsel, Henry Clay, who had been, six days before, chosen United States senator, to fill the vacancy occasioned by the resignation of Adair himself—and the star of whose professional and political greatness had just begun to beam splendidly on the western horizon. But if any improper or ill-timed proceedings were in part the result of his efforts, none will doubt that he acted under erroneous impressions of the facts. He undoubtedly at the time wholly discredited the charge against Burr.'
The proofs at hand were at best very imperfect-Burr had great tact in glossing over his designs, and stopped at no bold deception-Kentucky, at that time, was rent by bitter party and personal feuds, and Daviess, a warm Federalist, was unjustly suspected of having party and personal objects in view. Wilkinson, as has been already said, was distrusted; and if any information of his later movements had reached Kentucky, it was vague, confused, and contradictory. And an authorized attempt on Mexico was one of the most popular things which could be proposed in the West.
Graham, the confidential agent of the Government, proceeded to Marietta, and easily drew from Blennerhasset enough
1 In Mallory's Life of Mr. Clay (prefixed to an edition of his speeches), is given Burr's letter to Clay, when he solicited his aid. In this he utterly disavowed all criminal or illegal intentions. In justice to Mr. Clay, and as a specimen of Burr's matchless effrontery in falsehood, we subjoin an extract from the letter.
** I have no design, nor have I taken any measure, to promote a dissolution of the Union, or a separation of any one or more States from the residue. I have neither pub. lished a line on this subject, nor has any one through my agency or with my knowledge. I have no design to intermeddle with the government or to disturb the tranquillity of the United States, or of its territories, or of any part of them. I have neither given, nor signed, nor promised a commission to any person for any purpose. I do not own a musket, nor bayonet, nor any single article of military stores; nor does any person for me, by my authority, or with my knowledge. My views have been fully explained to, and approved by, several of the principal officers of Government, and I believe are well understood by the Administration, and seen by it with complacency. They are such as every man of honor and every good citizen must approve. Considering the high station you now fill in our national councils, I have thought these explanations proper, as well to counteract the chimerical tales which malevolent persons have so industriously circulated, as to satisfy you that you have not espoused the cause of a man in any way unfriendly to the laws, the Government, or the interests of his country.”
Mr. Clay (says Mallory), on reaching Washington as a senator, and seeing the evi. dence collected against Burr, and particularly the letter in cipher from him to Wilkinson, became apprised of his former client's true character. The same biographer further asserts (vol. p. 25) that Clay and Burr next met, after an interval of some years, in the court room of the City Hall in New York. The latter approached the former, dering him his hand with the customary salutation." Clay refused to receive his hand. Burr, however, endeavored to engage him in conversation, complimenting him on his conduct at Ghent. Clay “turned a deaf ear, replying very briefly to his inquiries, and giving him no encouragement to proceed." Burr requested an interview. Clay named his lodgings; but the other never came-anticipating, probably, that his cringing perti. uncity would meet a still more summary repulse.
to anthorize an application (December 2d) to the Governor of Ohio to seize Burr's flotilla in the Muskingum. The Legislature was sitting, and instantly, in secret session, authorized the seizure. The President's proclamation now arrived. Four or five boats coming from Pennsylvania to join Burr (under Major or Colonel Tyler) passed down the river, and Blennerhasset escaped in them, leaving his wife behind. His house and grounds received some very rough usage from a body of militia which next day took possession of them.
Graham hurried on to Frankfort. The Kentucky Legislature was in no mood to reënact the scene which had just been exhibited in the District Court. It immediately ordered the seizure of everything connected with Burr's expedition. Militia were posted on the river to intercept descending boats, but Tyler's escaped in the night. Burr and Adair, after reaching Nashville, had parted, the former descending the Cumberland, and the latter pushing across the country for New Orleans. Burr was joined by Tyler near the close of December. Their united force comprised not far from one hundred men.
About the first of January, Burr reached the Mississippi territory, and, going on shore, saw in a newspaper the measures which had been taken for his reception at New Orleans. He thereupon withdrew to the Louisiana bank of the river, and formed a camp a few miles above Natchez. The President's proclamation soon reached Mississippi. The Governor of that territory called out a detachment of militia, and made
preparations to arrest Burr. The latter, after an interview with the Governor (and after his personal safety had been stipulated), surrendered rather than be immediately attacked, and gave recognizances to appear before the Territorial Court. Poindexter, the Attorney-General of Mississippi, believed that Burr was not amenable to the Territorial Court, having committed no offence within its jurisdiction; and he proposed to send the prisoner to Washington. The court overruled the objection, but no evidence against Burr was sent to the grand-jury, and they, of course, found no bill. On the contrary, they presented the Governor for calling out the militia, the mode in which Burr had been compelled to surrender, and the proceedings at New Orleans, which, they declared, “if sanctioned by the Executive of our country, must sap the vitals of our political
existence, and crumble this glorious fabric in the dust.” Under what influences a grand-jury could have been summoned, who were capable of this indecent action, we are not apprised; but nothing is to be considered marvellous or startling where Burr is found to be an actor in the scene.
The malefactor's respite was short. He learned that Wilkinson had sent military officers to arrest him, and he fled eastward. A reward was offered for his apprehension, and in February he was taken in Alabama, shabbily dressed, and accompanied by one man. He was ultimately carried to Richmond for trial.
During these proceedings, the President's correspondence on the subject was uniformly calm and confident. He wrote General Wilkinson January 30, 1807, and after stating the seizure of Blennerhasset's flotilla, and that Tyler's could not probably escape, he said:
“I believe therefore that the enterprise may be considered as crushed, but we are not to relax in our attentions until we hear what has passed at Louisville. If everything from that place upwards be successfully arrested, there is nothing from below that is to be feared. Be assured that Tennessee, and particularly General Jackson, are faithful.
“We had considered Fort Adams as the place to make a stand, because it covered the mouth of the Red river. You have preferred New Orleans on the apprehension of a fleet from the West Indies. Be assured there is not any foundation for such an expectation, but the lying exaggerations of those traitors to impose on others, and swell their pretended means. The very man whom they represented to you as gone to Jamaica, and to bring the fileet, has never been from home, and has regularly communicated to me everything which had passed between Burr and him. No such proposition was ever hazarded to him. France or Spain would not send a fleet to take Vera Cruz; and though one of the expeditions, now near arriving from England, is probably for Vera Cruz, and perhaps already there, yet the state of things between us renders it impossible they should countenance an enterprise unauthorized by us. Still I repeat that these grounds of security must not stop our proceedings or preparations until they are further confirmed. Go on, therefore with your works for the defence of New Orleans, because they will always be useful, only looking to what should be permanent rather than means merely temporary.”
He wrote Charles Clay, January 11th:
“Burr's enterprise is the most extraordinary since the days of Don Quixote. It is so extravagant that those who know his understanding would not believe it if the proofs admitted doubt. He has meant to place himself on the throne of Montezuma,
1 Commodore Truxton.