United States. Congress.

Abridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856 : from Gales and Seaton's Annals of Congress, from their Register of debates, and from the official reported debates by John C. Rives online

. (page 158 of 184)
Online LibraryUnited States. CongressAbridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856 : from Gales and Seaton's Annals of Congress, from their Register of debates, and from the official reported debates by John C. Rives → online text (page 158 of 184)
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coun^ at large. Within a few days, informir
tion had been put into his possession, of a nat^ne
and on a subject which he deemed it proper far
the constituted authority to inquire into. Had
this information come earlier into his po^esson,
he should not tiU now have delayed giving it
publicity. He would first state oertidn fu^
and tliose facts would be the ground of his mo-
tion, on which he sliould offer no azgameoi
Mr. R. then read the following documents:


Nbw Orleans, Januaiy 20, 179C

In the g^ey the Victoria, Bemazdo MoIibs, Ps*
troD, there have been sent to Don V inoent Folch ime
thousand six hundred and forty dollars; which fios,
without making the least use of it, yon win hold at
my disposal, to deliver it at the moment thst sd or-
der may be presented to you by the Americsn Geoe-
ral, Don Jsmes Wilkinson. Qod preserve yoa manj

To Sefior Don Tomas Pobtklu

I certify that the foregoing is a copy of iti, origi-
nal to which I refer. TOMAS POBT£I«L

New Madbid, June 27, 1796.

FoBT Washikoioh, Sept 22, 179&

HI health and many pressing eogagements nnrt
be my apology for a abort letter. I most nferyoa
to my letter to the Baron for several partk»lsn, sad
for a detul of my perils and ahosea I mnat b^g
leave to refer yoa to oar friend Power, whom I find
of yoathfol enterprise and fidelity. He oertaioly ie-
serves well of the Coart, and I don't doubt bat bs
will be rewarded.

What political crisis is the present ! and howdeep-
ly interesting in its probable results, in all iti to-
dencies! •• ** and thereby most hope it may notbe
carried into execation. If it is, an .entire refera u>
the police and military establishments of Looiusos
will be foond immediately indispensable to tbe seat-
rity of the Mexican provinces. I beg yoo to wn»
me folly on this question in cipher by Power, whose
senoe in Philadelphia is neoessaiy, as well to desr
own oharaoter, attacked by Wayne, as to affort

Digitized by




Bbckkbeb, 1807.]

Cfmend WUkuuon.

[H. OF R.

the fact of the oatrage recently ofibred to the Span-
ish Crown in his person, and to hring me either the
porson or the deposition of a man now nnder yonr
command, who had been' suborned bj Wayne to
bear false witness against me, and afterwards, for
fear he flhoold recant, bribed him to leave Kentucky.
Power will give you the perfect of this infamous
transaction, and I coxgure you hy all the ties of
friendship and of policy to assist him on this ocoa-
sioD. If Spain does not resent the outrage offered
to Power in the face of all Kentucky * * * * My letter
to the Baron will explain the motives which carry
me to Philadelphia : from thence I will write again
to you. Power will explain to you droumstances
wluoh justify the belief of the great trtaehery that
has been pradiaed iciih respect to tie money UUely tent
flie. For the love of God and friendship, exgoin
great secrecy and caution in all our oonoerns. Never
mtger my name to he written or tpohen. The suspicion
OF Washihotov is widb awake. Beware of Brad-
ford, the Fort Pitt refugee — ^he seeks to make peace
— ^there are spies every where. We have a report
here that you are appointed Gkvemor of Louisiana.
God grant it, as I presume the Baron will be pro-
moted. I am your affectionate friend. W.

Copy of a letter in cipher received from General'
Wilkinson. Natchez, February 6, 1797.


In a fleparate paper, he says what follows:

This will be delivered to you by Noland, who,
yoQ know, is a child of my own raising — true to his
profession and firm in his attachments to Spain. I
consider him a powerful instrument in your hands,
should occasion offer — ^I will answer for his conduct.
I am deeply interested in whatsoever concerns him,
and I confidently recommend him to your warmest
pgroteodon. I am, evidently, your afiectionate


N. B. — ^Don Gayoeo was then Governor of Nat-
chos, and the same year was made Grovemor of Lou-

Mr. Handolph stated the following to be an
extract of a letter signed " T. Power," whose
handwriting, he said, oonid be identified :

*<0n the 27th of the same month [October last]
appeared in the Richmond Enquirer a certificate
given by myself to General Wilkinson in New Or-
leans on the I6th of May preceding. Immediately
on my getting sight of this piece, which was the
same or the next day, I addressed a note to his £x-
eeDency General Wilkinsouf [No. a] Of this I did
not keep a copy, and therefore dare not vouch that
it is an exact Uteral transcript of the original ; but
I will be bold to say that it is nearly (or, to make
nse of the General's own language, substantially) the

'^ Between my repeated declarations to many of
my friends and acquaintances (I must say it with a
blush) and this certificate, there is a manifest con-
tradiction. And between this same certificate and
the deductions to be drawn from my declaration be-
fbm the Richmond Gourt^ theie is an apparent incon-
sistency, which it is now my task to clear up and

*^ During General ^V^lkinson's residenoe in New
Orleans^ last winter, I used occasionally to visit
him. A few days before he kft New Orleans, I

waited upon him one morning, and after some con-
versation on certain transactions that had taketl
place at a former period in the Western cojmtry, and
on the delicate situation in which his conduct during
the winter was likely to place him, he asked me if
I had any objection to give him a certificate that
might help him to silence that foul-mouthed Brad-
foi9, and refute the assertions of the editor of the
Western World. I replied without hesitation that I
had none, and would give him one with pleasure,
provided he promised me it should not he published.
On this he assured me that the only use he proposed
to make of it was to lay it before the President, with
the view to prove the falsehood of the charges circu-
lated against him, vindicate his character, and se-
cmre the confidence of the Executive. This, if not
exactly, is substantially what the General said. He
then desired me to sit down and write the certificate.
I observed that I might not make it out entirely to
his satisfaction; and that, as he best knew the
pointo he wished should be embraced in it, he had
better make it out himseU; and I would cc^y it To
this he agreed. Next morning, I waited on his Ex-
cellency, and he presented me Ike certificate, whioh
I copied, as it has been published, with a few altera-
tions. One — a very material one — is ihat, after
these words : * Do most solemnly declare that I have
at no lime carried or delivered to Gen. James Wil-
kinson ' — I erased the words^ * either directly or in-
directly,* and declared to the General I could not
insert those words. He did not insist, and contented
himself with saying that he wished me to insert
them if m^ conscience would allow it, but not other-
wise. This is ingenuously exactly what passed b^
tween the General and myself at that time.

** Now let me with the same frankness and ingen-
uousness, without referring to any preceding or
subsequent event, narrate Sie transaction of 1796,
alluded to in my certificate, and concerning which I
offered to give testimony in the federal circuit court
in Richmond. It is the same that is the subject of
the affidavits of Messrs. Derhigny and Mercier.
That of the former gentleman is correct as to
substance, for I actually did receive from Captain
Don Thomas P^rtell, commandant of New Midrid,
the sum of |9,640 for General Wilkinson, towards
the latter end of June or beginning of July, 1796,
which was packed up in the manner described by
Mr. Derbigny, and when I was stopped and my hoat
searched on the Ohio by Lieutenant Steele, under
the orders of General Anthony Wayne, I had other
sums on board, but this was the only one I had re-
ceived for General Wilkinson. On my arrival at
Louisville, determined not to expose myself a second
time to military insult, and fearful of bdng overta-
ken hy Steele on his return, and of being again over-
hauled, I landed mv cargo, purchased a horse, and
proceeded by land to Cincinnati As I passed
through Lexington, I published in Stewart's Ken-
tucky Herald my affidavit ooncemmg this outrage,
supported by those of the spectators of the transac-
tion, Welsh, White, and Sansom ; preceded by a few
strictures on this military piracy, signed Impartial.
And I now take this opportunity of clearing General
Wilkinson of the charge of being the author of it, as
is asserted by Bradford, of New Orleans, and declare
it was written by myself, and that excepting Cap-
tain Campbell Smith, no person ever saw it before it
was put into the hands of the printer.

'* At Cincinnati I acquainted General W. with the
droumstances that had oooozxed, and he gave me

Digitized by




H. OP B.]



Olden to detiTer tlie monej to Ifr. Philip Nolan.
Theae orden I panotnally exeeated. Mr. Nolan
eonyeyed the barrels of tngar and oofl^ that oon-
tafaied the dollars to Frankfort in a wagon. I there
aaw them opened in Mr. Montgomery Brown's store.
The sugar and coflbe I afterwards sold to Mr. Ahijah
Hunt, of CincinnatL

^* I shall take no notice of Mr. MoDonongfa's affi-
darit. It does not refer to any tiling alluded to in
my certificate. That part of mine that has refer-
ence to my mifliion to Kentucky and Detroit in 1797,
I shall also pass orer in silence, as it has no conoeo-
tion with the present sntjeot.

** I will DOW endeavor, in a few words, to reconcile
what may appear oontndictoiy and inoonristent in
my cerd&ate, and the declaration I hare jnst laid
before yon.

*' Was I base and dishonorable enoogh to descend
to teiKiversation, captious logic, and sophistical eva-
sion, I could maintain that this contradiction does
not exist, and that I never did cany or deliver to
General Wilkinson any cash, bills or property of any
species. It is true I delivered a certain sum o^
money, by his order, to Mr. Nolan ; bnt Philip Nolan
is not James Wilkinson ; srpo, I may with a safe
conscience swear that I never delivered James Wil-
kinson any money, <kc, bnt I soom to make use of
any such pitifhl, contemptible and degrading mode
of defence, and will allow for a moment that I did
deliver to Qeaeral Wilkinson the money in question.
It is generally admitted that in politics morality is not
to be measmred by the same narrow scale as that
which ought to regulate the moral conduct of men
in their private concema The rigid stoic would, on
a long run, make but a bungling politician ; and the
most austere moralist, if he has his couotiy's inter-
est at heart, and is acting in a public capacity,
would not hesitate to do 3iat which, as a private
man, and in private conoems, he would shrink and
recede from with horror and trembling predfuta-

** Let us now fbr a while suppose that I was a
secret agent of the Spanish Government, and that
General Wilkinson was a penrioner of sidd Govern-
ment, or had received certain sums for co-operation
with and promoting its views, and that those views
and projects were inimical to that of the United
States, should I be worthy of the trust reposed in
me by my (Government, were I to refuse to give
General W. any document that might contribute to
raise him in the good opinion of the Administration
of his country, blazon his integrity and patriotism,
and fortify him in their confidence, and by their
means enlarge his power of ii^uring them and serv-
ing us? Surely not; or if I did, I should deserve
to be hooted at as an idiot**

Mr. Raitdolph then said it would be waste
of time to comment on what be had read, but
be conoeived it his duty to tell the House that
he had good cause to beUeve that there was a
member of this body who had it in his power,
if the authority of the House were exercised
upon hira, if he were coerced, to give the House
much more full, important, and damning evi-
dence than that which had already appeared.
He alluded to the gentleman from the Territory
of Orleans, (Mr. Ola.bk,) whom he had now
the pleasure to see in his seat If the United
States were in the critical situation which had

been so often represented, and in which all con-
sidered them to be placed^ what position was
the military force of the United States at this
moment t Was it not proper that this businesi
should be inquired into f He had been given
to understand, long ago, that an inquiry on ths
subject was to be courted; it had not taken
place. He had no more to say, but moTed the
following resolution:

Buolved, That the President of the United States
be requested to cause an inquiry to be inst itnte d into
the conduct of Brigadier^neral James Wilkinsoii,
Commander-in-chief of the Armies of the Umtad
States, in relation to his having, at any time, whik
in the service of the United States, CQrmpCly re-
ceived money from the Government of Spain or ib

Mr. Clark said he unexpectedly beard bin-
self named, and he would observe that it had
been long supposed, from his residence in Louis-
iana, his acquaintance with military offio^^ and
the various means of information whicb he
might have possessed while Consul at New Oi^
leans, that he was aoauainted with certain trais-
actions which bad tucen place in that oonntrr.
The knowledge which he bad possessed he had
endeavored to impart to the Administration at
different times, both verbally and by a written
correspondence^ to which a deaf ear bad been
turned. As this information had not .been at-
tended to, he bad refused to gratify curioaty
on the subject. And, notwithstanding the geo-
Ueman^s calling upon him, be felt himself bound
to say that he would not be influenced by fear,
favor, or affection, to give any information on
the subject^ except compelled by a resolution of
the House.

Mr. Thomajb moved that the resolution ofi^-
ed by Mr. Randolph should lie on tbe table;
but a motion made to consider was agreed to.

Mr. Randolph said, as it appeared by the
declaration of the gentleman from New Orleans
that he did possess information, and as the
House had a right to it, be wished the Speaker
or some other gentleman to inform him of the
manner in which it might be obtained.

[No order was taken on this point.]

Mr. Tatlob moved that the resolution be
committed to a Committee of the Whole, not
on to-day or to-morrow, but at a dbtant day,
that time might be afforded for oonaideration.

After debate, Mr. Tatlob withdrew bis mo-

Mr. Gabdenibb moved that it be referred to
a select committee, with power to send for per-
sons, papers, dec.

Mr. Mabion moved to strike out that part d
this motion giving power to a select committee
to send for persons, papers, &c.

On the foregoing motions a very lengthy and
somewhat desultory debate ensued of aboat fire '
hours. The debate tunied on many inddental
questions, among which, whether Congress had
a constitutional right to request Ibe President
to cause the proposed inquiry to be made ? To
this it was answered that Congress had as much

Digitized by




Dbobmbbb, 1807.]

Gmeral Wilkmmm,

[EL ov a

right to make this request as to request the
President to lay before them public papers —
either of which requests he might refose. It
was also said, that in making this request, the
House could not command more attention than
was doe to a respectable individnaL

It was doubted whether a member could be
oaUed upon to. give information in his seat, or
at the bar of me House? In answer, prece-
dents were produced of cases in which members
of the House had been interrosated at the bar.

It was also contended, that if delivered in his
place, the communication would be liable to
commentarv or reply, by any eentleman who
might think proper to discuss it, in the same
manner as any other speech.

It was made a question whether this infor-
mation could be more properly received by a
Committee of the Whole, or a select commit-
tee, or by the House t It was said on this, that
it had heretofore been the course of procedure
to empower chairmen of committees in such
cases to administer oaths; that in the House a
member could be compelled to give information
if the House thought fit, but in Oommittee of
the Whole he could not be compelled ; that if
information or evidence were to be received in
the House, it would perplex their proceedings
by loading the table and journals with inter-
rogatories, &c

It was questioned whether it were proper to
decide it now, to refer it, or to postpone it?
On these points there appeared to be a great
diversity of opinion-naome thinking that the
evidence which they had received was sufficient
to induce them to pass the resolution without
forther consideration, being a mere request to
the President to inquire ; others wished further
time and more evidence previous to giving their
vote on the subject, considering it bf great im-
portance; others were in favor of a reference
to a committee, to consider all the foregoing
points as well as the propriety of the main reso-
lution; some wished this committee to have
power to send for persons and papers, to report
to the House their opinions on this subject, to-
gether with evidence, believing that positive
and satisfactory, evidence should be produced
before they adopted this resolution, and as it
was impossible to understand precisely the evi-
dence now produced from the mere reading of
it; other gentlemen wished it referred to a
oommittee without power to send for persons,
papers, &c^ as they conceived the House did
not possess power to enforce their orders in such
cases, General Wilkinson being a military and
not a civil officer, whom the Pre»dent alone
had power to remove.

None of these points were decided either di-
rectly or by implication.

In the course of this devious discussion, the
■acoeeding observations on the main subject
were made by different gentlemen.

Mr. W. Alston had heard nothing in the
documents read to-day impeaching the charac-
ter of General Wilkinson more than what the

newspapers throughout the Union had teemed
with for two years, except, indeed, a letter from
Mr. Power; and who was Mr. Power, or what
credibility could be attached to any thing
emanating fix>m him? Everv person in the
United States who could read knew his charac-
ter. He was opposed to coercing evidence or
considering a resolution proposing an inqxiiry,
even if he were in favor of the inquiry.

Mr. SioLiB thought the debate which had
already taken place on a reference totally im-
proper. He had heard suffident evidence on
this subject to convince him that such an in-

auiry was necessary; he did not think that
biere could be any farther doubt on the suljeet.
The House could not try General Wilkinson ;
he must be tried by another tribunal. They
owed it to the country and to Qeneral Wilkin-
son himself to request an inquiry, and he hoped
there would not be a dissenting voice on the
question of agreement to the resolution. He
could not give an opinion as to the guilt or in-
nocence of General Wilkinson, but he thought
it absolutely necessary that an inquiry should
be had.

Mr. Gabdknixb was satisfied of the impropri-
ety of proceeding on the consideration of any
question of importance too hastily, more espe-
cially in a case so materially affectingan officer
of high rank in the United States. He wished
to have time to consider tally before he could
vote on a subject of as much magnitude as this;
they should not act from first impressions. If
the subject were referred to a committee with
power to send for persons, papers, &a, the tes-
timony on the subject would come before them
in a proper shape, and not with the inaccuracy
which must always attend information given in
this manner, but in a condensed form, in which
its force might be f^y felt He did not wish
to be precipitated into an inquiry too soon;
neither did he wish an inq^^ to be made be-
cause it was due to (General Wilkinson. If this
inquiry was courted by, and this motion intend*
ed as a favor to General Wilkinson, he was
astonished that it had not been brought forward
before. There certainly had been before ground
enough shown for an inquiry into his conduct ;
but if General Wilkinson's conduct had so fiir
evinced his purity as not to excite in the Ad>
ministration even a suspicion against his charao-
ter, if no inquiry had been made on the charges
whidi had resounded fixmi every part of Qie
Union, Mr. G. did not wish now, merely for the
sake of doing justice to that officer, to press an
inquiry which the Executive had not thought

S roper to make. Neither did he wish rashly to
ecide on this question^ because in doing this
they would add the weight of their accusation
to the cries of the whole nation ; the united
force of which no individual oould repeL

Mr. Ohandlxb said this was a subject which
had been long before the nation, and with
which they were all acquainted : if that officer
was innocent, it was due to himself and his
friends that an inquiry should be made ; if he

Digitized by




H. OF R.]

G mmv i WUkimMn,

[Jasqabt, 1801

were guilty, it was dae to the United States.
The evi^^Doe produced was sufficient on which
to ground an inquiry, and he was ready to de-
cide without ftuther time.

Mr. K10HOLA8 had no doubt but an inquinr
ought to be made; after what had been heard,
if Oeneri^ Wilkinson were the lowest officer in
the United States, he should be of opinion that
an inquiry ought to be made, but he doubted
whether thb was a question on which they
were now prepared to decide. For this reason
he had secouaed the motion for referring the
resolution to a select committee, who could con-
nder whether this subject came under cogni-
sance of the House; he considered the House
as a mere legislative body, except in the single
case of impeachment He was not nrepared to
say what was proper to be done witn tnis reso-
lution, but his first impression was against act-
ing on it. It would open doors for receiving
complaints of the nusconduct of any officer ; he
did not think this power was lodged in the
House, and he had no wish to assume powers
which did not pertain to them. As to the
question whether there should be an inquiry or
not, no man could doubt An inquiry must be
made. Would it be said' that an office of this
importance should be suffered to be retained by
a man who had received a pension from a
foreign Gk>vemmentt He thought it could
not ; and, therefore, he wished an inquiry to be
made into the truth of this charge.

Mr. BuBWEix was decidedly opposed to refer-
ence to any committee whatever. It seemed to
be the universal opinion that an inquiry ought
to be had on the conduct of the Commander-
in-chief of the Army of the United States; and
it was highly important that the subject should
be acted on speedily. If the nation was (as
appeared probiable) to be involved in war, it
was necessary that the Commander-in-chief
should possess the confidence of the Army, the
People, and the Gk>vernment

Mr. JomsBON said the good people of Ken-
tucky were interested in this subject. Many
reports to the prejudice of General Wilkinson
existed there; nothing certun had appeared
against him, but the people entertained doubts
on the subject ; there were circumstances which
thev wished to be investigated; if nothing
oonld be found against him, the sooner his in-
nocence was known the better. Knowing this,
he should not hesitate to give his vote in such
a manner as to dispose of the subject most
speedily. The investigation was due to the
people, and to the man himself.

Mr. Maoox said if ever there had been a
time since the year 1788, in which it was par-
ticularly necessary that those persons in office
should have the confidence of the Government
and of the people, that time had arrived. Could
It be expected after hearing the information
which had been produced that the people
would have confidence in General Wilkmsonf
It was as important that the Commander-in-
chief should be free from suspicion as that the

President or the House of RepresentaUra
should be unsuspected. The CommaDder-in-
chief during the American Revolution wasim-

E reachable ; calumnv never assailed him, ui
e of course enjoyed the full confidence of Qie
people. The evidence which had been this daj

Online LibraryUnited States. CongressAbridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856 : from Gales and Seaton's Annals of Congress, from their Register of debates, and from the official reported debates by John C. Rives → online text (page 158 of 184)