« PreviousContinue »
tion that powerful tribes of Indians had been tampered with by Spanish agents, to prevent the running of the line, determined Ellicot to demand a definitive answer as to the time when the limits were to be ascertained. this moment a Proclamation was issued by Carandolet, the Governor of Louisiana, stating, as the cause of the delay, an apprehended expedition by the British from Canada; and a belief, that the advance of the American troops was with a hostile design of surprise; requiring the United States to leave the posts in the possession of Spain; or to secure her against an article of the treaty with Great Britain, which exposed them to be pillaged. An additional reason was assigned for the delay, "the expectation of an immediate rupture between France, (the intimate ally of Spain,) and the United States!"
This Proclamation increased the excitement of the inhabitants, which was heightened by the imprisonment of one of them. They embodied themselves, and resolved to expel the Spanish garrison. After much persuasion the tumult was quieted. But the neglect to organize a government affrighted the people.-Dissensions aroseintrigues ensued-the influence of the United States diminished.
Little doubt existed that Spain, then wholly under the influence of France, either to protect her possessions permanently, or with a view to a cession to that nation, had resolved to defeat the execution of the treaty. This belief was strengthened by the arrival at the Havana of a large military force, by the number of French agents who were conferring with the Indians, by the secret expedition of Collot, who, under the pretext of curiosity, was recently known to have explored Tennessee; and by annunciations in the French gazettes at New Orleans, that France was about to become the mistress of Louis
iana and of the Floridas. But Spain had not yet resolved to cede these provinces, her present purpose was to sever its Western territory from the Union, and to establish over it a government under her immediate influence.
In the year seventeen hundred and ninety-four, a Spanish agent had been dispatched by the Governor of Louisiana to watch Genet's expedition under Clark and La Chaise. The same agent was employed on a mission late in the following year, having a different object. He was directed to ascertain the various channels through which the Western country could be approached. A plan was proposed by which the mouth of the Ohio should be formidably fortified. A bank was to be established in Kentucky to interest its leading characters, and Spanish funds were to be introduced there. Clark and his adherents, who were stated to be in the pay of the French Republic, were to be brought into the service of Spain, and military magazines to be established at New Madrid. To promote this plan, an interview was had between certain American citizens and the Spanish Governor, who awaited them at that post.
Another journey was made by the same agent in the year ninety-six. In the succeeding Spring, he was again sent forward, instructed to urge delay in taking possession of the posts, and "to prepare the minds of the people for a separation from the Union." The success of this project was founded on the ambition and interests of individuals, and "the excessive Gallicism of the people."
This mission proved wholly unsuccessful. The position of Spain had changed, and with it had changed the course of the Democratic leaders. By the treaty of ninety-five, she had not only ceased to be in hostility with France, but had entered into a society of war :-a breach with Spain became at once a rupture with France. This
was the event, of all others, the leaders of the Democratic party sought to avoid.
Thus, the policy of France determined at this time the condition of the Western territory. She preferred the King of Spain should hold his possessions until the attainment of her European objects would enable her to accomplish the extensive plans she meditated on the American Continent.
It was known at Philadelphia, that, at the moment of concluding the treaty with Spain, the French counsels contemplated the acquisition of Louisiana and the Floridas. One of her partisan presses insisted, during the recent session of Congress, after the rejection of Pinckney was ascertained, that she would never conclude a peace with England until the principle was admitted that free ships make free goods; and until she obtained Louisiana and Canada; the former as controlling the mines of Mexico and Peru—the latter to restore to the nation" a people and a possession of which it had been despoiled by the misconduct of its Kings; and where, like the Romans, she might provide for thousands of her veterans."
One part of this prediction was fulfilled by the subsequent cession of Louisiana to France. The other preceded, but a short time, the explosion of a feeble attempt upon Canada. During the early part of ninety-six, an intrigue had been commenced by Adet. His objects were to produce a revolt in Canada by the interference of American citizens; and thereby, though the revolt should prove unsuccessful, to involve the United States in a war with Great Britain. The discontented Canadians were to be instigated to an insurrection. Arms were to be furnished by France; and, at the moment of their rising, they were to be aided by a party from the frontiers of the United States.
To divert the attention of the Colonial governments from Lower Canada, several Frenchmen were stated to have been plotting at Detroit, while Quebec was the real object of attack. The plan failed in all its parts.
Ira Allen, a native of Vermont, repaired to France, and there made a contract with the Minister of War, for the purchase of arms. The contract purported a small payment in advance-the residue in remote instalments. The object of the purchase was represented to be for the supply of the militia of Vermont, but there was nothing to authorize this representation. No authority had been derived from the State. No intimation of the intended purchase had been given to the officers of its government. In completion of the contract, twenty thousand stand of arms-twenty pieces of cannon-tents and other military equipments were shipped in the Spring of ninety-seven for the United States.* At the time that this contract was made in Paris, McLean, an American citizen, who had been promised a commission of "General" in the service of France, was sent by Adet to Canada. He made repeated visits, tampering with the Canadians, until his secrets were disclosed to the government, when he was seized, tried, and executed, for high treason.
His guilt was established by the concurring evidence of several witnesses, and by a paper found upon him signed by Adet. The plot was, to interest the priests, and having gained a party among the inhabitants, simultaneously to surprise Quebec and Montreal. Assurances were given by him that arms would be supplied by France through the United States, to be concealed in rafts, and to be transported by way of the St. Lawrence and Lake Champlain ;-and that a co-operating force was
In the "Olive Branch." The contract was found among her papers.
organized on the border. To inspire confidence, the cre dentials from Adet were shown; and it was stated "that the Spanish Minister at Philadelphia was also concerned in the project."
The failure of this plot was lamented in the leading Democratic paper, and the sympathies of the American people were directed to the culprit.*
It has been seen, that one of the reasons assigned by the Spanish officers for retaining the posts was an apprehended descent by the British from Canada. The ground of this charge was a negotiation which had been opened by Blount, formerly Governor, and then a Senator from Tennessee, with the British Ambassador.
An intimation of this design was given by De Yrugo, the Minister from Spain, to the Secretary of State. Colonel Pickering, knowing that no preparations were made in Canada for such an object, regarded it as a fable; but a subsequently intercepted letter of Blount, showing that he entertained projects dangerous to peace, alarmed the Government. Inquiries were made of the British Embassy, whether any such project existed, or had received its countenance. The British Minister admitted that overtures had been made to him, and that he had transmitted the proposals to his Court.
Blount was impeached, an investigation was had, and it appeared from a despatch of Lord Grenville,† that, when the design was communicated to the British government, it was rejected, as involving "the necessity of employing Indians," and "the criminality of originating within the United States any hostile expedition" with a nation with which they were at peace.
* Trial of McLean for High Treason, July 6, 1797, in the "Aurora." Despatch of April 8th, 1797, in Blount's Trial.