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of an interesting and amusing and fundamentally sound, albeit somewhat rancorous, history of his State. This loyal counter-movement hindered and hampered the separatists greatly, and made them cautious about advocating outright disunion. It was one of the causes which combined to render abortive both the separatist agitations, and the Spanish intrigues of the period.
While Miro was corresponding with Wilkinson and arranging for pensioning both him and Sebastian, Gardoqui was busy at New York. His efforts at negotiation were fruitless; for his instructions positively forbade him to yield the navigation of the Mississippi, or to allow the rectification of the boundary lines as claimed by the United States ;51 while the representatives of the latter refused to treat at all unless both of these points were conceded.52 Jay he found to be particularly intractable, and in one of his letters he expressed the hope that he would be replaced by Richard Henry Lee, whom Gardoqui considered to be in the Spanish interest. He was much interested in the case of Vermont,52 which at that time was in doubt whether to remain an independent State, to join the Union, or even possibly to form some kind of alliance with the British; and what he saw occurring in this New England State made him for the moment hopeful about the result of the Spanish designs on Kentucky. 51 Gardoqui MSS., Instructions, July 25 and October 2, 1784. 52 Do., Gardoqui's Letters, June 19, 1786, October 28, 1786, December 5, 1787, July 25, 1788, etc. 53 Do., May 11, 1787.
Gardoqui was an over-hopeful man, accustomed to that diplomacy which acts on the supposition that every one has his price. After the manner of his kind, he was prone to ascribe absurdly evil motives to all men, and to be duped himself in consequence. He never understood the people with whom he was dealing. He was sure that they could all be reached by underhand and corrupt influences of some kind, if he could only find out where to put on the pres
The perfect freedom with which many loyal men talked to and before him puzzled him; and their characteristically American habit of indulging in gloomy forebodings as to the nation's futurewhen they were not insisting that the said future would be one of unparalleled magnificence-gave him wild hopes that it might prove possible to corrupt them. He was confirmed in his belief by the undoubted corruption and disloyalty to their country shown by a few of the men he met, the most important of those who were in his pay being an alleged Catholic, James White, once a North Carolina delegate and afterward Indian agent. Moreover, others who never indulged in overt disloyalty to the Union undoubtedly consulted and questioned Gardoqui about his proposals, while reserving their own decision, being men who let their loyalty be determined by events. Finally some men of entire purity committed grave indiscretions in dealing with him. Henry Lee, for instance, was so foolish as to
54 John Mason Brown, “Political Beginnings of Kentucky,”
borrow five thousand dollars from this representative of a foreign and unfriendly power; Gardoqui, of course, lending the money under the impression that its receipt would bind Lee to the Spanish in
Madison, Knox, Clinton, and other men of position under the Continental Congress, including Brown, the delegate from Kentucky, were among those who conferred freely with Gardoqui. In speaking with several of them, including Madison and Brown, he broached the subject of Kentucky's possible separation from the Union and alliance with Spain; and Madison and Brown discussed his statements between themselves. So far there was nothing out of the way in Brown's conduct; but after one of these conferences he wrote to Kentucky in terms which showed that he was willing to entertain Gardoqui's proposition if it seemed advisable to
His letter, which was intended to be private, but which was soon published, was dated July 10, 1788. It advocated immediate separation from Virginia without regard to constitutional methods, and also ran in part as follows: “In private conferences which I have had with Mr. Gardoqui, the Spanish Minister, I have been assured by him in the most explicit terms that if Kentucky will declare her independenc and empower some proper person to negotiate with
55 Gardoqui MSS., Gardoqui to Florida Blanca, December 5, 1787; August 27, 1786; October 25, 1786; October 2, 1789, etc. In these letters White is frequently alluded to as “Don Jaime."
him, that he has authority and will engage to open the navigation of the Mississippi for the exportation of their produce on terms of mutual advantage. But this privilege never can be extended to them while part of the United States. ...,
.. I have thought proper to communicate (this) to a few confidential friends in this district, with his permission, not doubting but that they will make a prudent use of the information."
At the outset of any movement which, whatever may be its form, is in its essence revolutionary, and only to be justified on grounds that justify a revolution, the leaders, though loud in declamation about the wrongs to be remedied, always hesitate to speak in plain terms concerning the remedies which they really have in mind. They are often reluctant to. admit their purposes unequivocally, even to themselves, and may indeed blind themselves to the necessary results of their policy. They often choose their language with care, so that it may not commit them beyond all hope of explanation or retraction. Brown, Innes, and the other separatist leaders in Kentucky were not actuated by the motives of personal corruption which influenced Wilkinson, Sebastian, and White to conspire with Gardoqui and Miro for the break-up of the Union. Their position, as far as the mere separatist feeling itself was concerned, was not essentially different from that of George Clinton in New York or Sumter in South Carolina. Of course, however, their connection with a foreign power unpleasantly tainted their course,
exactly as a similar connection, with Great Britain instead of with Spain, tainted the similar course of action Ethan Allen was pursuing at this very time in Vermont.56 In after years they and their apologists endeavored to explain away their deeds and words, and tried to show that they were not disunionists; precisely as the authors of the Kentucky and Virginia resolutions of 1798 and of the resolutions of the Hartford Convention in 1814 tried in later years to show that these also were not disunion movements. The effort is as vain in one case as in the other. Brown's letter shows that he and the party with which he was identified were ready to bring about Kentucky's separation from the Union, if it could safely be done; the prospect of a commercial alliance with Spain being one of their chief objects, and affording one of their chief arguments.
The publication of Brown's letter and the boldness of the separatist party spurred to renewed effort the Union men, one of whom, Col. Thomas Marshall, an uncle of Humphrey Marshall and father of the great Chief-Justice, sent a full account of the situation to Washington. The more timid and wavering among the disunionists drew back; and the agitation was dropped when the new National Government began to show that it was thoroughly able to keep order at home and enforce respect abroad.57
These separatist movements were general in the
56 "Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography," XI, No. 2, p. 165. Ethan Allen's letter to Lord Dorchester.
67 Letter of Col. T. Marshall, September 11, 1790.