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“ American cause, or a weak General and bad councils had long “ since lost it:'-or words to that effect.” “ Your friends would be “ glad to know, what are the words of the letter, and I should be “ very much obliged to you for a copy of that part of it.” To this Wilkinson answers ;— I perfectly remember spending a social
day with your Lordship (and family) at Reading ; in the course • of which, the conversation became general, unreserved and copi
ous; the tenor of your Lordship's discourse, and the nature of · our situation, made it confidential. I cannot therefore recapitu• late particulars, or charge my memory with the circumstance you mention, but, my Lord, I disdain low craft, subtlety, or evasion—and will acknowledge, it is possible, in the warmth of social intercourse, when the mind is relaxed and the heart is un'guarded, that observations may have elapsed, which have not
since occurred to me. I can scarce credit my senses, when I * read the paragraph in which you request an extract from a pri* vate letter which had fallen under my observation : I may have been indiscreet, my Lord, but be assured I am not dishonourable.'a Notwithstanding the craft
, subtlety and evasion, which, in spite of the General's dislike of the whole family, have crept into this letter, there is also in it acknowledgment enough to satisfy any fair inquirer, that Lord Sterling had done the writer no injustice; for it is quite impossible--if our hero, with all his nice hereditary motions of honour, had then thought his Lordship’s representation both cruel and falje-that the letter on that subject, last quoted, would have contained the equivocal concessions, and much less the marked submission, which are to be found in it. These considerations—which vindicate his courage at the expense of his veracity-leave little doubt on this question ; but there are others which remove from it all doubt. Having made a tein porary peace witkı Gen. Gates—the basis of which was a promise “ to bleed” poor old Sterling-he set out from York, and after passing a day or two with his beloved,'b proceeded to the Grand Army, where he met with friends who advised him to put a little water into his wine; to bridle his passions, and instead of sending a peremptory and unqualified challenge to the old Earl, to state his wrongs, and appeal to his justice. This advice he followed, and what were the wrongs of which he then complained? And what the reparation he required and obtained ? That Sterling's report was cruel and false, and that he must recant every syllable of it? Nothing of this kind is even hinted, nor any thing approaching it; and our Preux Chevalier is perfectly satisfied with the declaration—that his communication at Reading had been made in a tavern whisper, at a drinking party," but under no injunction of secrecy.”a
a Vol. I. p. 383. Chap. IX.
b This applies to the lady who afterwards became his wife; a worthy and respectable woman. She was the second daughter of the late John Biddle, keeper of the Indian King tavern in Market-street, Philadelphia. We give this explanation to prevent skeptics from supposing, that this amorous language was at all tainted with the Irish morality that the General had picked up at the barracks of Philadelphia.
c Vol. I. p. 391.
And here ends the story of our author's first persecution,-of the vile blow aimed at his “virgin fame;" in which, he deliberately convicts himself of an act of treachery to his patron, of another of malignity to his friend, and of a third, compounded of falsehood and calumny, against his bottle companion !
Second persecution. The patronage of '78, had in it nothing of that bold, decided character, which marks the favouritism of 1816; and which, as our text asserts, shelters fools, knaves and cowards.b At that period, retreat was inseparable from disgrace, and we accordingly find our hero descending from the stilts of a Brevet Brigadier, to the obscure level of a Clothier-General. How long he continued to exercise the functions of this humane employment, we know not, nor is it very material to know.
In 1783, like many better men, he was compelled, by the expenses of an increasing family, to exchange the pavements of Philadelphia for the wilds of Kentucky; where, having associated himself with another knight of the pestle, he embarked in commerce. This experiment was not successful, and in 1787, we find him making up his pacotille, and taking the route to New-Orleans.d Arrived there, he found means to be introduced to Governor Miro, and like Cæsar, on a very different occasion, might exclaim, veni, vidi, vici. Terrified by his name, or won by his graces, the Don capitulated at sight;" the hard, churlish, ill-judged policy of Spain, immediately relaxed; the Mississippi knew no longer the obstructions which ignorance, folly and jealousy had imposed upon her, and means were even found to get hold of the three keys that are necessary to unlock the treasury of the king.f
The people of America are great investigators ;-great pryers into the motives, means, and business of each other;—are seldom satisfied with mere effects, and seek to know all the intermediate steps, between the first cause and the last result. So, in this case, finding a change, equally sudden and extraordinary, in the circumstances of the General; discovering that he was vested with a power that almost verified the dreams of ancient alchemy, and a Vol. I. p. 392.
b Vol. I. p. 539. and Vol. II. p. 4. c Major Dunn, bred to the business of an apothecary.
d “To avoid his creditors," as his enemies alleged to better his fortuve," as he himself asserted.
e See Vol. II. Appendix No. 1. Pollock's deposition. f Idem.
which actually converted Kentucky tobacco into Mexican dollars, they could not conceal their curiosity, their astonishment, perhaps their envy; and, as was natural enough, the less they were able to explain the magic, the more they yielded to conjectures, dishonourable to the magician. The popular belief on this subject, was, that Wilkinson had sold himself to Spain, and was particularly engaged in the project of severing the Western country from the Union.a But being then a mere trader in politics, as well as in tobacco; sustaining no public character, and professing the intention of eventually making himself a Spanish subject, his supposed defection was not seriously regarded.
It has been remarked, that men, brought up to any trade or profession, are apt to carry with them, ideas connected with that particular walk. Our hero accordingly delighted in surprises, and in drawing forth by turns the admiration and the pity of society. He had on this occasion, as we have seen, excited the former in a high degree, and the moment had now arrived, in which, full effect might be given to the latter; for, in the midst of these golden dreams, he became a bankrupt !d and discovering, that his talents were not commercial, resumed the sword of his country, and publicly abjured all farther connexion with trade and with Miro. Nor would the sincerity of this declaration have been doubted, by either friends or enemies, had it not been pointedly and repeatedly contradicted by appearances. These were such, that in 1795, Wayne, (then commander in chief of the Legion,) suspected his integrity;e in 1796, Washington instituted a secret inquiry into his conduct; and in 1798, sa general was the belief of his being a pensioner of Spain, that “scarcely a man arrived from the Mississippi, who did not brivg the report along with him."Yet, extraordinary as it may appear, it was ten years after this date, before a public inquiry of any kind, was instituted by the Government;h and thirteen years, before the charges growing out of this belief, were formally investigated by a Military court. The pressure upon Mr. Madison, could not, however, be longer resisted; he was obliged to yield to the impulse of public opinion : a Court Martial was accordingly organized, and our immaculate author brought to the bar, on charges of corruption, conspiracy and treason! We shall take a look at each, and examine particularly the evidence by which the General rebuts them.
a See a pamphlet of I. H. Davies, Esq. Attorney General of Kentucky, and bis correspondence with Mr. Jefferson. “I find,” says he, “ that in the conven“tion of 1783, at Danville, he [Wilkinson) rose and proposed a separation and 6 union with Spain, to that body; he was supported by
-the senator, but " the proposition was so badly received, that it was dropped.”
b Vol. II. p. 112.
d His creditors heard nothing of the damaged tobacco, which he had stored in New Orleans in 1789 or 1790, and which covered so many subsequent l'emittances, made to him by the Spanish Government. e See Appendix No. 29. Vol. II.
f Idem No. 28. g President Adams's letter, Vol. II. p. 154. h Court of Inquiry, reported 4th July, 1803. i Court Martial sat in 1814. a See the sentence of the Court Martial, Vol. II. p. 566. b See Vol. II. p. 119.
Of Corruption. On the part of the prosecution it was alleged, that the General had received sundry large sums of money from the Spanish Government, corruptly, between the months of December 1789 and December 1803, making a total of $31,973. On the part of the accused, it was admitted, that he had received from the Spanish Government, before and during the year 1789, more than $80,000,a and subsequently, other large sums: but this he justified on the ground of his having a right so to do;—these payments being, as he said, the proceeds of a quantity of tobacco brought to New Orleans, and stored there before he re-entered the army. In support of this justification, he exhibits an account current between himself and Governor Miro, dated in the year 1796, and signed “ Gilbert Leonard;" by which it appears, that all the money paid to Wilkinson after December 1791, arose from the sale of damaged tobacco to the Spanish Governor. Now, as this tobacco turns out to be a sort of miraculous cruise, ever ready to supply the General's wants when they became pressing, we must be permitted to inspect it, or rather the account with which it is connected, pretty closely. We ask then, are the parties such as give it a character of authenticity-and is it from Miro and Wilkinson, and their disciplined agents Nolan and Leonard, that we are to expect a full and faithful exposition of transactions, requiring the double veil of cyphers and hieroglyphics? Have we even sufficient evidence of its genuineness? Is it really what it purports to be,-the work of this Gilbert Leonard ? Is it in his handwriting ? No: Has he signed it? No: Does it profess to be any thing more than the copy of an account current rendered by him? No: And in whose handwriting is this copy? In that of the protegé Nolan; and how is even his handwriting certified ? By one Evans, before a magistrate of the name of Brooks, whose signature, residence and authority are not authenticated at all!!
These facts certainly go far to discredit this extraordinary document, on which the General substantially rests his whole defence; but there are others, which, combined with these, leave it not the shadow of credibility.
I st. While the General was under examination before a committee of Congress, no one heard a syllable of this account current. It had survived the wreck of his papers in 1793, but was “ too important to his defence,” to be trusted to that body! Important indeed we allow it to be, for on examining the subsequent uses made of it, we find it figuring before two military courts, for very different and even opposite purposes : In 1808, he offers it to the Court of Inquiry, as proof that the damaged tobacco in question, was deposited in New Orleans in 1789, and it does satisfy the court on that head: but Clark's pamphlet appearing the next year, and cutting up this pretence by the roots, and showing from the commercial books of Clark and Rees, (partners of Wilkinson,). that, on the 5th day of September 1789, he had not one ounce of tobacco, good or bad, in the market of New-Orleans; and by his own letters, that his next remittances in that article, were not made before June 1790, our author saw the necessity of manæuvering his dates, and accommodating them to this new state of things, and hence it was, that this very account-current, three years afterwards, was again brought forward to satisfy the Court Martial, that his damaged tobacco was deposited, not in '89, but in 1790! Now, had this important account-current been genuine, had it really been in the handwriting of the deceased Nolan, made in 1796, and unaltered in words, figures, &c. it is evident, that it could not have been so twisted, as at different times, and before different courts, to have established positions, directly contradicting each other. The conclusion is inevitable ;-either, the account was false, ab initio; or, to suit all the phases of the General's fortunes, it was so changed, as entirely to destroy its credibility.
20. Still, this extraordinary document was not without its use. It served the important purpose of fixing the day, when the last cent of the General's miraculous fund, according to his own acknowledgment, was exhausted, and of course, foreclosed him from ever again drawing upon it. Yet, reader, hear the testimonynot of Daniel Clark- not of Thomas Power-not of Seth Hunt, &c. but of Isaac Briggs ;—the only man in the Mississippi Territory, whom the General thought worthy of trust.a It is in the following memorable words ;-“But General,” says Briggs-on meeting him in 1806—" what about the Spanish money? I have “ heard that thou receivedst, previous to thy departure from New" Orleans, in the Spring of 1804, from Spanish officers, about “ $10,000 of a late Mexican coinage, in Campeachy bags."' " It is
a fact,” replied the General “ I did receive about that sum, of a “late Mexican coinage, in Campeachy bags, and from Spanish 66 officers :-and what then? It was due to me on account of former 66 mercantile contracts.”b So then-another touch at the tobacco; -a little more of the Spanish; and, to cover it, the old story of
a See Appendix, document 100. Vol. IL b See document 59. Vol. II.