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History of the United States During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson/Second/I:11


Chapter 11: Burr's PreparationsEdit

The death of Pitt destroyed all immediate possibility of drawing England into conspiracy with Burr,—if indeed a possibility had ever existed. The attempt to obtain money from Spain was equally hopeless. Except for Madison's conduct in receiving Miranda and refusing to receive Yrujo, Dayton would probably have obtained nothing from Spain; but the information he was able to give Yrujo in regard to Miranda's plans and proceedings deserved reward, and Dayton received at different times sums of money, amounting in all to about three thousand dollars, from the Spanish treasury. Dayton's private necessities required much larger sums.

Burr was also ruined. He could not return to New York, where an indictment hung over his head. Conspiracy was easier than poverty; but conspiracy without foreign aid was too wild a scheme for other men to join. Jefferson might at that moment have stopped Burr's activity by sending word privately to him and his friends that their projects must be dropped; but Jefferson, while closing every other path, left that of conspiracy open to Burr, who followed it only with much difficulty. In order to retain any friends or followers he was obliged to deceive them all, and entangle himself and them in an elaborate network of falsehood. Dayton alone knew the truth, and helped him to deceive.

April 16, 1806, a few days before the adjournment of Congress, Burr wrote to Wilkinson a letter implying that Wilkinson had required certain conditions and an enlargement of the scheme; Burr assured him that his requirements, which probably concerned aid from Truxton, Preble, Eaton, and Decatur, had been fully satisfied:—

"The execution of our project is postponed till December. Want of water in Ohio rendered movement impracticable; other reasons rendered delay expedient. The association is enlarged, and comprises all that Wilkinson could wish. Confidence limited to a few. Though this delay is irksome, it will enable us to move with more certainty and dignity. Burr will be throughout the United States this summer. Administration is damned which Randolph aids. Burr wrote you a long letter last December, replying to a short one deemed very silly. Nothing has been heard from the Brigadier since October. Is Gushing and Porter right? Address Burr at Washington."[1]
Burr's letters to Wilkinson were always in cipher, and mysteriously worded; but in this despatch nothing was unintelligible. Wilkinson afterward explained that he was himself the "Brigadier," and the two names were those of officers under his command.

The same western mail which carried this letter to Wilkinson carried another to Blennerhassett, inviting him to join in a "speculation," which would "not be commenced before December, if ever." Probably Burr made many other efforts to obtain money from petty sources; he certainly exerted himself to delude the Spanish government into lending him assistance. Hitherto he had left this task to Dayton, his secretary of state, but May 14, 1806, the Spanish minister wrote to Don Pedro Cevallos,[2]

"The principal [Burr] has opened himself to me; and the communications I have had with him confirm me in the idea, not only of the probability, but even of the facility, of his success, under certain circumstances. To insure it, some pecuniary aid on our part and on that of France is wanted. I have been careful to be very circumspect in my answers, and have not compromised myself in any manner; but when I return to Spain next spring I shall be bearer of the whole plan, with the details that may be wanted. There will also arrive in Spain before long, more or less simultaneously with me though by different ways, two or three very respectable persons, both from Louisiana and from Kentucky and Tennessee, with the same object. They all consider the interests of these countries as united and in conformity with those of Spain and France; but the principal, or more correctly the principals, here do not wish to open themselves to the Emperor Napoleon's minister [Turreau], as they lack confidence in him. Consequently, it will be proper either not to communicate the matter at all to that government, or to do it with the intimation that its representative here shall not have the least notice of it; for, I repeat, they have no confidence in him, and this has been a condition imposed on me in the communications I have received."

Finding Yrujo obstinate in refusing to advance money, Burr tried to alarm him by pretending to take up again the scheme of attacking Florida and Mexico. June 9, 1806, Yrujo wrote another long despatch on the subject. Burr, he said, had suddenly ceased to visit him as frequently as usual, and Dayton had explained the coldness as due to Burr's belief that the new Administration in England would be more liberal and zealous than that of Pitt. Dayton added that Burr was drawing up new instructions for Williamson; that he had even decided to send Bollman to London to invite co-operation from the British government in an attack on the Spanish possessions. Dayton professed to have acted as the protector of Spain from Burr's unprincipled ambition.

"Dayton told me [3] he had observed to Burr that although he (Burr) was assuredly the principal, yet a plan of this nature ought to be put in deliberation in the cabinet council which certain chiefs are to hold in New Orleans in the month of December next, and that for his own part he thought this idea unjust and impolitic; to which Burr answered that they would always be able to alter the plan as circumstances should require, and that in fact this point, or at least the direction to be given to it, would be determined in New Orleans. Dayton told me that he would oppose with all his strength measures of this nature, and that he knew General Wilkinson, who was to be a member of the Congress, would make the same opposition; and that in order to drive the idea of such a temptation out of Burr's head, and of other people's also, it would be well for us to reinforce our garrisons at Pensacola and Mobile, and that then the circumstance of our respectable condition of defence might be used as a weighty argument for abandoning such a project. After holding this conference with me, Dayton returned to his residence; and before starting, wrote me a note to say that the night before Burr had read him the instructions to be given to Bollman, and that they were of the tenor indicated to me."
Godoy and Cevallos were hardly so imbecile as to pay for creating at New Orleans a new American empire more dangerous to Spanish possessions than the peaceful republic over which Jefferson presided at Washington. Don Pedro Cevallos read Yrujo's despatches with great interest. At first he even hinted that if the United States were bent on forcing a war with Spain, these adventurers, in case of actual hostilities, might be made useful;[4] but this suggestion was accompanied by many warnings to Yrujo not to commit himself or to contribute money, and at last by a flat announcement that the King would not in any way encourage Burr's designs.[5]

The conspirators were in a worse position as regarded England. By a fatal stroke of ill-luck, Merry's despatch of Nov. 25, 1805, written to be read in secrecy by the Tory Lord Mulgrave, was received at the Foreign Office Feb. 2, 1806, ten days after Pitt's death, and was probably opened by Charles James Fox,—almost the last man in England to whom Merry would have willingly shown it. The only answer received by Merry reached Washington about June 1, 1806, and consisted in the dry announcement that his Majesty had been pleased to listen favorably to Mr. Merry's request for a recall, and had appointed the Hon. David Montague Erskine as his successor.

Merry complained piteously that he had never suggested a wish to be recalled, that he had indeed the strongest desire to remain, and felt himself greatly aggrieved at his treatment; but Fox was remorseless, and Merry could only prepare for Erskine's arrival. Smarting under this sudden reproof, Merry held his parting interview with Burr. Doubtless it was as little cheerful on one side as on the other; but Merry did not think himself required to give an immediate or a minute account of it to Fox. He waited until Erskine's arrival, and then, in one of his last despatches, Nov. 2, 1806, after Burr had begun his operations in the West, Merry wrote,[6]

"I saw this gentleman [Burr] for the last time at this place [Washington] in the month of June last, when he made particular inquiry whether I had received any answer from my Government to the propositions he had requested me to transmit to them, and lamented exceedingly that I had not, because he, and the persons connected with him at New Orleans, would now, though very reluctantly, be under the necessity of addressing themselves to the French and Spanish governments. He added, however, that the disposition of the inhabitants of the Western country, and particularly Louisiana, to separate themselves from the American Union was so strong that the attempt might be made with every prospect of success without any foreign assistance whatever; and his last words to me were that, with or without such support, it certainly would be made very shortly."

After receiving this rebuff from England, Burr and Dayton needed singular impudence to threaten Yrujo with the terror of Charles James Fox; but impudence had become their only resource. Every step taken thenceforward by the conspirators was taken by means of a new imposture; until at last they became petty swindlers who lived from day to day by cheating each other. How flagrant their imposture was, has been partly shown in their attempt to deceive Yrujo; but their treatment of Wilkinson was far more dishonest.

Toward the end of July, 1806, Burr had accomplished all that could be done in the East, and prepared to begin his campaign to New Orleans. By strenuous efforts money had been raised to set the subordinate adventurers in motion. Among these were Erick Bollman, famous for an attempt to rescue Lafayette from confinement at Olmütz; a French officer named De Pestre, or Dupiester; Samuel Swartwout, a younger brother of Robert; and finally young Peter V. Ogden, a nephew of Dayton. The time had come when each actor must take his place, and must receive orders as to the rôle he was to play.

Of all Burr's intimates, Wilkinson was not only the most important, but also the most doubtful. He had hung back and had made conditions. Since October, 1805, nothing had been heard from him, and his last letter had contained objections "deemed very silly." At last a letter, dated May 13, arrived. This letter never saw the light; afterward, at the trial, Wilkinson challenged its production, and accused Burr of falsehood in asserting that it had been destroyed at Wilkinson's request or with his knowledge. Only one conclusion might be taken as certain in regard to its contents,—they did not suit the situation of Dayton and Burr.

Dayton's reply was dated July 24, 1806, and was sent by his nephew, Peter V. Ogden, to Wilkinson.

"It is now well ascertained that you are to be displaced in next session," wrote Dayton, working on his old friend's pride and fears. "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 prospects offer in another quarter. Are you ready? Are your numerous associates ready? Wealth and glory! Louisiana and Mexico!"

Together with this exhortation from Dayton, Burr sent a cipher despatch, afterward famous as the key to the whole conspiracy. Published at different times with varying versions, as suited Wilkinson's momentary objects, the correct reading probably ran very nearly as follows:—

"July 29, 1806. Your letter, postmarked 13th May, is received. At length I have obtained funds, and have actually commenced. The Eastern detachments, from different points and under different pretences, will rendezvous on the Ohio 1st of November. Everything internal and external favors our views. Naval protection of England is secured. Truxton is going to Jamaica to arrange with the admiral on that station. It will meet us at the Mississippi. England, a 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 to return. With him goes his daughter; the husband will follow in October, with a corps of worthies. Send forthwith 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 could 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 given to the contractor to forward six months' provisions to points Wilkinson may name; this shall not be used until the last moment, and then under proper injunctions. Our object, my dear friend, is brought to a point so long desired. Burr guarantees the result with his life and honor, with the lives and honor and the fortunes of hundreds, the best blood of our country. Burr's plan of operation is to move down rapidly from the Falls, on the 15th of November, with the first five hundred or a thousand men, in light boats now constructing for that purpose; to be at Natchez between the 5th and 15th of December, there to meet you; 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 Burr 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 us to glory and fortune; it remains to be seen whether we deserve the boon. The bearer of this goes express to you. He is a man of inviolable honor and perfect discretion, formed to execute rather than 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 require, and no further. He has imbibed a reverence for your character, and may be embarrassed in your presence; put him at ease, and he will satisfy you."

Had Burr and Dayton not felt strong reason to doubt Wilkinson's course, they would not have invented a tissue of falsehoods such as these letters contained. So far as concerned Wilkinson's future conduct, no one could deny that this gross deception set him free from any ties that might have previously bound him to Dayton or Burr.

Furnished with these and other letters almost equally compromising, Ogden and Swartwout, at the end of July, started on their way. Swartwout was directed to see Adair in Kentucky, and to deliver to him despatches, the contents of which have never been made known, but were doubtless identical with the letters to Wilkinson. At the same time Erick Bollman started by sea with similar despatches for New Orleans.

Early in August Burr followed, taking with him his daughter Mrs. Allston, and his chief of staff Colonel De Pestre. After crossing the mountains he threw aside ordinary caution. At Canonsburg, about fifteen miles beyond Pittsburg, he stopped at the house of an old friend, Colonel Morgan, and there so freely asserted the imbecility of the Federal government and the certainty of a speedy separation of the Western States from the Eastern, that Morgan thought himself bound to give President Jefferson a warning.

The conversation at Canonsburg took place in the afternoon and evening of August 22. A few days afterward Burr arrived at Blennerhassett's island, where he found the owner waiting with enthusiasm to receive him. Of all the eager dupes with whom Burr had to deal, this intelligent and accomplished Irish gentleman was the most simple. After wasting half his property on his island, he discovered that he had left himself not more than thirty or forty thousand dollars to live upon; and this small property was invested in funds which produced so little as to leave him always embarrassed. He wished ardently to make his fortune by some bold speculation; and Burr had no more pressing necessity than to obtain the funds which Blennerhassett burned to invest. Burr said to Blennerhassett in effect what he said to Wilkinson; but Blennerhassett was less able than Wilkinson to detect falsehood. The actual speculation which was to make Blennerhassett's fortune seemed certain of success. Burr had invented more than one way of getting money; and among his various expedients none was more ingenious than that of buying a certain Spanish claim, known as the Bastrop grant, covering an immense district on the Red River, and supposed to be owned in part by one Lynch in Kentucky. Burr had undertaken to buy Lynch's interest for forty thousand dollars, of which only four thousand or five thousand dollars need be paid in money; and he persuaded Blennerhassett that on the most moderate estimate, they could reap from it the profit of a million. Blennerhassett was assured that before the end of the year Louisiana would be independent, with Burr for its ruler, under the protection of England. Wilkinson and the United States army were pledged to accept the revolution and to support Burr. Tennessee was secured; and though Kentucky and Ohio were doubtful, they would end by following Tennessee. The government at Washington would fall to pieces, and the new empire under a stronger government, would rise at once to power. Then Bastrop's grant would take character; its actual cheapness was due to doubts as to its validity: but the moment its validity was decided by the new government, all whose members would be interested in it, the value of the grant would become enormous; emigration would be directed to the spot, and Blennerhassett's fortune would be vast. He would, meanwhile, go at once as minister to England, with Erick Bollman for secretary of legation. [7]

In an incredibly short time Blennerhasset's head was turned. Unluckily for him, his wife's head was turned even more easily than his own; and the charms of Theodosia Allston, who became a guest at the island, dazzled the eyes of both. Before Burr had been two days in the house, Blennerhassett was so enthusiastic a supporter of the scheme that he set himself to work, under Burr's eye, to publish a series of essays in order to show the State of Ohio that disunion was an infallible cure for all its natural or acquired ills. The first of these essays was quickly finished, taken to Marietta, and printed in the "Ohio Gazette" of September 4 under the signature "Querist."

September 2, before the "Querist" appeared, Burr continued his journey down the river to Cincinnati, where he arrived September 4, and remained a few days with Senator Smith, talking freely about the impotence of the government, the rights and wrongs of the Western people, and their inducements to set up a separate empire. September 10 he crossed the river to Lexington in Kentucky, and shortly afterward went to Nashville in Tennessee.

Owing chiefly to the friendship of Andrew Jackson, the town of Nashville was strongly attached to Burr, and was supposed to favor the disunion scheme. Tennessee was the only State which Burr always claimed positively as his own. Whether he had better grounds for his confidence in Jackson than for his faith in Wilkinson and Daniel Clark might be doubted; but Tennessee was at least vehement in hatred of the Spaniards. The Spaniards were pressing close against Wilkinson's little force at Natchitoches, and Burr made use of the threatened war in order to cover his own scheme. September 27 a public dinner was given to him at Nashville, and Jackson offered as a toast the old sentiment of 1798: "Millions for defence; not a cent for tribute." A few days later Burr returned to Kentucky; and within a week suddenly appeared in the newspaper at Nashville a strange proclamation signed "Andrew Jackson, Major-General Second Division," and dated Oct. 4, 1806, in which the brigade commanders were ordered to place their brigades at once on such a footing as would enable them on the shortest notice to supply their quotas "when the government and constituted authorities of our country" should require them to march. This unauthorized step was commonly supposed to be taken in the interest of Burr's conspiracy, and compromised Jackson gravely in the eyes of the Government at Washington.

Meanwhile Theodosia Allston and her husband had been left in charge of the Blennerhassetts, while Blennerhassett himself behaved as though he were a village school-boy playing the part of chieftain in an imaginary feudal castle. He went about the country raising recruits and buying supplies, chattering to every young and active man he met about the expedition which was to make their fortunes. He confided in his gardener, a simple, straightforward fellow named Peter Taylor, "that Colonel Burr would be king of Mexico, and that Mrs. Allston would be queen of Mexico whenever Colonel Burr died." He added that Burr "had a great many friends in the Spanish territory; two thousand Roman Catholic priests were enlisted in his corps; that those priests and the societies which belonged to them were a strong party; that the Spaniards, like the French, had got tired of their government and wanted to swap it; that the British were also friends to this expedition; and that he was the very man who was to go to England on this piece of business for Colonel Burr." When at the subsequent trial Taylor told this tale, the world was incredulous, and insisted upon disbelieving his story; but Blennerhassett's papers proved the extent of his delusion. By common consent the Blennerhassetts and Allstons agreed that Theodosia was to inherit the empire from her father; but doubts existed whether Allston could take the crown as Theodosia's husband. "I will win it by a better title," he cried,—"by my deeds in council and in field!"[8] Mrs. Blennerhassett was impatient to exchange her solitary island for the court of her young empress; and Blennerhassett longed to set sail as minister for England with Erick Bollman for secretary of legation. Under the influence of this intoxication, Blennerhassett offered to advance money to the extent of all his property for Burr's use if Allston would give him a written and sealed guaranty to a certain amount; which Allston did.[9]

Leaving his wife at the island, while fifteen boats were building at Marietta and kilns for baking bread were constructed on the island itself, Blennerhassett went with the Allstons down the river to Lexington, and there rejoined Burr on his return from Nashville, about October 1. No time had been lost. The boats building at Marietta would carry about five hundred men; others to be built elsewhere would carry five hundred more. Recruiting went rapidly forward. Finally, the purchase-money for Lynch's interest in Bastrop's grant, about four or five thousand dollars, was paid; and Blennerhassett congratulated himself on owning a share in four hundred thousand acres of land in the heart of Louisiana.

To communicate with his friends in New York and Philadelphia, Burr sent De Pestre October 25, with directions to report the movements of the Western conspirators to the Marquis of Casa Yrujo, as well as to Swartwout and Dayton. Burr gave De Pestre to understand that one object of his mission was to blind the Spanish minister in regard to the schemes against Mexico and Florida; in reality De Pestre's mission was probably for the purpose of raising money. Yrujo was already well informed from other sources. November 10, before De Pestre's arrival, the Marquis wrote to his Government that some five hundred men were collecting on the upper Ohio to move down the river in squads:[10]

"Colonel Burr will go down with them under pretext of establishing them on a great land-purchase he is supposed to have made. In passing Cincinnati they expect to get possession of five thousand stand of arms which the government deposited there at the time of its differences with us about the navigation of the Mississippi. After thus dropping the mask, this armed troop will follow down the course of the Mississippi. Colonel Burr will stop at Natchez, where he will wait until the Assembly of New Orleans has met, which will happen at once; and in this meeting (junta) they will declare the independence of the Western States, and will invite Burr meanwhile to place himself at the head of their government. He will accept the offer, will descend to New Orleans, and will set to work, clothed in a character which the people will have given him. I understand that Colonel Burr has already written the declaration of independence, and that it is couched in the same terms that the States adopted in theirs against Great Britain. This circumstance is the more notable inasmuch as the actual President was the person who drew it up in 1776. When Burr made the project of acting in agreement with England and seizing the Floridas, he expected to master them with troops that should accompany him from Baton Rouge. Although I am assured that this project is abandoned, and that on the contrary he wishes to live on good terms with Spain, I have written to Governor Folch of West Florida to be on his guard; and although I am persuaded that by means of Governor Folch's connection with General Wilkinson, he must be perfectly informed of the state of things and of Burr's intentions, I shall write to-day or to-morrow another letter to the Governor of Baton Rouge to be on the alert."

Yrujo believed that Wilkinson, the General in command of the American army, then supposed to be on the point of attacking the Spanish force in his front, was secretly and regularly communicating with the Spanish Governor of West Florida.

Burr was engaged in deceiving every one; but his attempt to deceive Yrujo, if seriously meant, was the least comprehensible of all his manoeuvres. December 4 the Spanish minister wrote to his Government another despatch which betrayed his perplexity at Burr's conduct:—

"I am positively assured," he said, "that from one day to another will embark from New York for New Orleans, to join Colonel Burr in Louisiana, three of his intimate friends, depositaries of his whole confidence; namely, Mr. Swartwout, lately marshal of the district of New York, a certain Dr. Erwin, and the famous Colonel Smith, the same who was implicated in the business of Miranda, and whose son went out as an aide-de-camp of that adventurer. Accordingly I wrote to the governors of both Floridas and to the Viceroy of Mexico, giving them a general idea of this affair, and recommending them to watch the movements of Colonel Burr and of his adventurers. This is an excess of precaution, since by this time they must not only know through the New Orleans and Natchez newspapers of the projects attributed to Colonel Burr, but also through the confidential channel of the No. 13 of the Marquis of Casa Calvo's cipher with the Prince of Peace, who is one of the conspirators, and who is to contribute very efficaciously to the execution of the scheme in case it shall be carried into effect."

The person designated as No. 13 in the cipher used between Casa Calvo and Godoy was the general-in-chief of the American forces, Wilkinson. The Marquis's despatch next mentioned the arrival of De Pestre, who appeared about November 27 at Yrujo's house:—

"About a week ago a former French officer came to see me, one of Burr's partisans, who came from Kentucky in search of various articles for the execution of his undertaking. . . . This officer handed me a letter from Colonel Burr, in which, after recommending him to me, the writer said simply that as this person had lately visited those States, he could give me information about them worthy of my curiosity. The date of this letter was Lexington, October 25."

De Pestre gave to Yrujo the assurance that all was going well with the undertaking; but the special message he was charged to deliver seemed to be the following:—

"He also told me, on the part of the Colonel, that I should soon hear that he meant to attack Mexico, but that I was not to believe such rumors; that on the contrary his plans were limited to the emancipation of the Western States, and that it was necessary to circulate this rumor in order to hide the true design of his armaments and of the assemblages of men which could no longer be kept secret; that Upper and Lower Louisiana, the States of Tennessee and Ohio, stood ready and ripe for his plans, but that the State of Kentucky was much divided; and as this is the most important in numbers and population, an armed force must be procured strong enough to control the party there which should be disposed to offer resistance. He added, on Burr's part, that as soon as the revolution should be complete, he should treat with Spain in regard to boundaries, and would conclude this affair to the entire satisfaction of Spain; meanwhile he wished me to write to the Governor of West Florida to diminish the burdens on Americans who navigate the Mobile River, and ask him, when the explosion should take place, to stop the courier or couriers who might be despatched by the friends of Government from New Orleans."

Burr's message caused Yrujo to warn all the Spanish officials in Florida, Texas, and Mexico that "although No. 13 seems to have acted in good faith hitherto, his fidelity could not be depended upon if he had a greater interest in violating it, and that therefore they must be cautious in listening to him and be very vigilant in regard to events that would probably happen in their neighborhood." De Pestre's mission made Yrujo more suspicious than ever, and he spared no precaution to render impossible the success of any attack on Florida or Mexico.

After De Pestre had visited New York, he returned to Philadelphia, and December 13 again called upon Yrujo.

"He told me," reported Yrujo,[11] "that he had seen Mr. Swartwout in New York, whom he had informed of Burr's wish that he, as well as Dr. Erwin, Colonel Smith, and Captain Lewis, who was captain of the merchant ship 'Emperor' and brother of the captain of Miranda's vessel the 'Leander,' should set out as soon as possible for New Orleans. Likewise he instructed him, on the part of the colonel, that the youths enlisted to serve as officers should set out as soon as possible for their posts. These, my informant told me, are different. Some two or three of them, the quickest and keenest, go to Washington to observe the movements of Government, to keep their friends in good disposition, and to despatch expresses with news of any important disposition or occurrence. Three go to Norfolk to make some despatch of provisions. A good number of them will go direct to Charleston to take command as officers, and see to the embarkation of the numerous recruits whom Colonel Burr's son-in-law has raised in South Carolina. He himself will then have returned there from Kentucky, and will embark with them for New Orleans. The rest will embark directly for that city from New York."

Yrujo could not see the feebleness of the conspiracy. So far as he knew, the story might be true; and although he had been both forewarned and forearmed, he could not but feel uneasy lest Burr should make a sudden attack on West Florida or Texas. The Spanish minister was able to protect Spanish interests if they were attacked; but he would have preferred to prevent an attack, and this could be done by the United States government alone. The indifference of President Jefferson to Burr's movements astounded many persons besides Yrujo. "It is astonishing," wrote Merry in November,[12] "that the Government here should have remained so long in ignorance of the intended design as even not to know with certainty at this moment the object of the preparations which they have learned are now making." Merry would have been still more astonished had he been told that the President was by no means ignorant of Burr's object; and Yrujo might well be perplexed to see that ignorant or not, the President had taken no measure for the defence of New Orleans, and that the time had passed when any measure could be taken. The city was in Wilkinson's hands. Even of the five small gunboats which were meant to be stationed at the mouth of the Mississippi, only one was actually there. That Burr and Wilkinson should meet resistance at New Orleans was not to be imagined. Yrujo saw no chance of checking them except in Ohio and Kentucky.


  1. Wilkinson's Memoirs, ii. Appendix, lxxxiii.
  2. Yrujo to Cevallos, May 14, 1806; MSS. Spanish Archives.
  3. Yrujo to Cevallos, June 9, 1806; MSS. Spanish Archives.
  4. Cevallos to Casa Yrujo, March 28, 1806; MSS. Spanish Archives.
  5. Cevallos to Casa Yrujo, July 12, 1806; MSS. Spanish Archives.
  6. Merry to C. J. Fox, June 1, 1806; MSS. British Archives.
  7. Blennerhassett Papers, p. 351.
  8. Blennerhassett Papers, p. 333; Blennerhassett to Allston, March 2, 1811.
  9. Blennerhassett Papers, pp. 397, 535.
  10. Yrujo to Cevallos, Nov. 10. 1806; MSS. Spanish Archives.
  11. Yrujo to Cevallos, Dec. 16, 1806; MSS. Spanish Archives.
  12. Merry to C. J. Fox, Nov. 2, 1806; MSS. British Archives