United States. Congress.

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

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Online LibraryUnited States. CongressAbridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856. From Gales and Seatons' Annals of Congress; from their Register of debates; and from the official reported debates, by John C. Rives → online text (page 159 of 183)
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Mr. Power, as he afterwards informed me, on his
tour through the Western country, saw General Wil-
kinson at Greenville, and was the bearer of a letter to
him for the Secretary of the Government of Louis-
iana, dated the 7th or 8th March, 1796, advising that
a sum of monljy- had been sent to Don Thomas Por-
tell, commandant of New Madrid, to be delivered to
his order. This money Mr. Power delivered to Mr.
Nolan, by Willcinson's directions. What concerned
Mr. Njjan's agency in this business I learned from
himself, when he afterwards visited New Orleans.

In 1797, Power was intrusted with another mission
to Kentucky, and had directions to propose certain
plans to effect the separation of the Western country
from the United States. These plans were proposed
and rejected, as he often solemnly assured me, through
the means of a Mr. George Nicholas, to whom among
others they were communicated, who spumed the
idea of receiving foreign money. Power then pro-
ceeded to Detroit to see General Wilkinson, and was
sent back by him under guard to New Madrid, from
whence he returned to New Orleans. Power's secret
instructions were known to me afterwards, and I am
enabled to state that the plan contemplated entirely

At the period spoken of, and for some time after-
wards, I was resident in the Spanish territory, sub-
ject to the Spanish laws, without an expectation of
becoming a citizen of the United States. My obliga-
tions were then to conceal, and not to communicate
to the Government of the United States the projects
and enterprises which I have mentioned of General
Wilkinson and the Spanish Government.

In the month of October, of 1798, 1 visited General
Wilkinson by his particular request at his camp at
Loftus' Heights, where he had shortly before arrived.
The General had heard of remarks made by me on
the subject of his pension, which had rendered him
uneasy, and he was desirous of making some ar-
rangements with me on the subject I passed three
days and nights in the General's tent. The chief
subjects of our conversation were, the views and en-
terprises of the Spanish Government in relation to the
United States, and speculations as to the result of po-
litical affairs. In the course of our conversation, he
stated that there was still a balance of ten thousand
dollars due him by the Spanish Government, for
which he would gladly take in exchange Governor
Gayoso's plantation near the Natchez, who might re-
imburse himself from the treasury at New Orleans.
I asked the General whether this sum was due on the
old business of the pension. He replied that it was,
and intimated a wish that I should propose to Gov-
ernor Gayoso a transfer of his plantation for the
money due him from the' Spanish treasury. The whole
affair had always been odious to me, and I declined
any agency in it. I acknowledged to him that I had
often spoken freely and publicly of his Spanish pen-
sion, but told him I had communicated nothing to his
Government on the subject. I advised him to drop
his Spanish connection. He justified it heretofore
from the peculiar situation of Kentucky ; the disad-
vantages the country labored under at the period
when he formed his connection with the Spaniards,



H. OP R.]

General Wilhinson.

[Jasdakt, 1808.

tl)e doubtful and distracted state of the Union at that
time, which he represented as bound together by
nothing better than a rope of sand. And he assured
me solemnly that he had terminated his connections
with the Spanish Government, and that they never
should be renewed. I gave the General to under-
stand that as the affair stood, I should not in future
say any thing about it. From that period until the
present I have heard one report only of the former
connection being renewed, and that was in 1804,
shortly after the General's departure from New Or-
leans. I had been absent for two or three months,
and returned to the city not long after General Wil-
kinson sailed from it. I was informed by the late
Mayor, that reports had reached the ears of the Gov-
ernor, of a sum of ten thousand dollars having been
received by the General of the Spanish Govei^ment,
while he was one of the Commissioners for taking
possession of Louisiana. He wished me to inquire
into the truth of them, which I agreed to do, on con-
dition that I might be permitted to communicate the
suspicion to the General, if the fact alleged against
Mm could not be better veriiied. This was assented
to. I made this inquiry, and satisfied myself by an
inspection of the treasury-book for 1804, that the ten
thousand dollars had not been paid. I then commu-
nicated the circumstance to a friend of the General,
(Mr. Evan Jones,) with a request that he would in-
form him of it. The report was revived at the last
session of Congress, by a letter from Colonel Ferdi-
nand Claiborne, of Natchez, to the Delegate of the
Mississippi Territory. A member of the House in-
formed me that the money in question was acknowl-
edged by Genera] Smith to havo been received at the
time mentioned, but that it was in payment for to-
bacco. I knew that no tobacco had been delivered,
and waited on General Smith for information as to
the receipt of the money, who disavowed all knowl-
edge of it ; and I took the opportunity of assuring
him, and as many others as mentioned the subject,
that I believed it to be false, and gave them my rea-
sons for the opinion.

This summary necessarily omits many details
tending to corroborate and illustrate the facts and
opinions I have stated. No aEusion has been had to
the public explanations of the transaction referred to,
made by General Wilkinson and his friends. So far
as they are resolved into commercial enterprises and
speculations, I had the best opportunity of being ac-
quainted with them, as I was, during the time re-
ferred to, the agent, of the house who were consignees
of the General at New Orleans, and who had an in-
terest in his shipments, and whoso books are in my
possession. DANIEL CLARK.

Washington Citt, Jan. 11, 1808.

DiSTKICT OF ComMBiA, to wit:
January 11, 1808.
Personally appeared before me, William Crancn,
chief judge of the circuit court of the District of Co-
lumbia, Daniel Clark, Esq., who being solemnly
sworn on the Holy Evangelists of Almighty God,
doth depose and say, that the foregoing statement
made by him, under the order of the House of Repre-
sentatives, so far as regards matters of his own
knowledge, is true, and so far as regards the matters
whereof he was informed by others, he believes to be
true. W. CRANCH.

Mr. Ko-WAN moved to amend the resolution
under consideration by striking out all that part

after the word " Resolved," and inserting the
following :

Resolved, That a special committee be appointed to
inquire into the conduct of Brigadier General James
Wilkinson, in relation to his having, at any time
whilst in the service of the United States, corruptly
received money from the Government of Spain or its
agents, and that the said committee have the power
to send for persons and papers, and compel their at-
tendance and production — and that they report the
result of their inquiry to this House.

The Speakbe declared the amendment to be
a substitute, and of course not in order.

Mr. Randolph said he was decidedly of
opinion that the gentleman from Kentucky
ought to have an opportunity of taking the
sense of the House on his motion: he there-
fore withdrew the resolution under considera-
tion: when

Mr. EowAJs moved the resolution as above

Mr. Bacok said, notwithstanding the evi-
dence which had just been read, he would give
the reasons why he could not yet vote for this
House to act in any manner on this subject,
more especially as proposed by this resolution.
It was not to be concealed that the impressions
made upon his mind by the statement of the
gentleman from New Orleans were very con-
siderable ; but the impressions which that or
any other statement were calculated to make,
were very different from the question of what
it was their duty to do in relation to it. He
hoped that they would not be so much im-
pressed by it (for it contained a great deal he
must confess) as to suffer it to impel them into
a path wide of their constitutional limits. He
did not mean to express a definite sentiment
as to the guilt or innocence of the officer in-

He would not, under the privilege of his seat,
on the one hand blazon the merits of General
Wilkinson to the world, nor on the other, de-
clare that he had sufficient evidence of his
guilt. He would leave it to the unbiased de-
cision of the proper tribunal

Mr. B. observed the other day, and would
now repeat it, that it was not within their
power to adopt the resolution then under con-
sideration, or that now offered by the gentle-
man from Kentucky. He then and now con-
ceived that the offence with which General
Wilkinson was charged, might be cognizable by
more than one department — certainly by the
Executive, from his being a military officer.
He could say nothing about the inquiry now in-
stituted one way or the other ; for if the con-
stitution did not authorize them to complete an
inquiry, they had no right to interfere with it,
bemg the exclusive province of the Executive.
It struck him further, that if the facts in this
statement should be proven on a fuU examination
to be true, (and he did not call its correctness in
question, for he had heard the same things from
other people,) he could not see why it was not
a case cognizable by a judicial tribunal. The



jAMnAKT, 1808.]

General Wilhinson.

[H. OF E.

constitution expressly forbade any person hold-
ing an office under the United States to 'take a
pension or donation from a foreign power. The
act of receiving money from a foteign power,
therefore — the charge made against General
Wilkinson — was a crime against the supreme
law of the land, and cognizable by the judicial
authority. If, therefore, we could, as proposed,
instruct, request, or in any manner interfere
with the Executive with respect to that portion
of the inquiry which appertains peculiarly to
the Executive, as the only power competent to
remove this officer, why may we not in the
same manner interfere with the jurisdiction or
cognizance of the Supreme Court ? He could
see no difference; with equal justice they could
interfere with one as with the other.

Gentlemen who were in favor of an inquiry
in this form, could not have considered the sub-
ject so maturely as they ought. This was a
Government of distributive powers. One class
had been delegated to the Representative body,
one to the Executive, and another to the Ju-
diciary. If they once began each to invade
the other's jurisdiction, the distributive system
was destroyed. It has been said that we are
the Representatives of the people ; that it is our
duty to see that the Republic take no harm.
This expression was calculated perhaps to capti-
vate the public ear, and acquire popularity, as
well as to captivate the House. But whatever
they might think of what ought to have been
provided, they ought to consider what was. I
do not think, because we may on this, or any
other occasion, suppose that we could do a great
deal of good, we ought to take any steps to-
wards effecting an object until we contemplate
our particular powers in relation to that object.
It has been said that this House is the grand in-
quest of the nation. I do not know what is
meant by this expression ; but if I understand the
meaning of the term, it conveys the same mean-
ing as grand jury. Kow, Mr. B. said, he could
not agree to any position that this House was
legitimately, on general subjects, the grand in-
quest of the nation. With respect to impeach-
ments, and in that case alone, were they the
grand jury, for then the two Houses acted in a
judicial capacity — ^this House being the grand
inquest to inquire, and the Senate being the
petit jury to judge of their presentment. Now,
if this House were the grand inquest to inquire
into this, or a similar case, in which an inquiry
might seem to be conducive to the interest of
the nation, and were to present a result, where
was the jury to judge of the truth of their ver-
dict? Was it to be tried by the Senate? That
was not pretended to be the course.

On all these accounts, therefore, whatever was
the impression which the paper this morning
laid on the table might be calculated to produce
on their minds, he thought they ought sedu-
lously to attend to the constitutional limits of
their duty, and not conclude, merely because
they might in any case act beneficially, that
they had the power to act in such case.

He had before observed, that he would not
express an opinion ; but he would say that an
inquiry ought to be had ; it will, it must be had,
and it should be a full and impartial inquiry.
If the inquiry which had been instituted were
but the semblance of an inquiry, for one it would
not satisfy him, or the people, or the nation ; it
ought not to satisfy them. Gentlemen had said
that a military court of inquiry would not be
competent. Mr. B. did not know what might
be their particular power as to sending for per-
sons ; but ifthat court had not sufficient power,
it was in the power of the House to clothe them
with it. He thought they might, though he
would not say that they ought to do this. As
a court of inquiry might have been, or could be,
clothed with this power ; and, adverting to
what he had before said, that it was a case cog-
nizable by a judicial tribunal ; and if so, that a
judicial tribunal had all the power that this
House could exercise in any criminal case, and
more than they had in this, he should vote
against every resolution going to express a con-
viction that this House had any po*er or right
whatever to act on a subject solely within the
constitutional right of the Executive or Judi-

Mi. Randolph said, if the gentleman who had
just sat down had not given his hasty impres-
sions, but left his good understanding free to
operate, his objections to the resolution would
have vanished. The great mistake made by
every gentleman who opposed this measure on
constitutional grounds, was this : that they
looked upon an inquiry made by this House,
through the organ of one of its committees, as
leading to the punishment of the individual im-
plicated, and that where this House was not
competent to inffict punishment, it was incom-
petent to make inquiry ; this was the great
stumbling-block, which had impeded their ap-
prehension. But he would ask the gentleman
from Massachusetts whether this House was not
competent to make an inqniry for its own legis-
lative guidance ? Was it not competent, as weU
in its capacity of supervisor of the public peace,
as to obtain a guide for its own actions, to in-
quire into this matter? Was not the House
clothed with the power of disbanding the army ?
Now, suppose a committee of the House, upon
inquiry, were to report, perhaps, that not only
the Commander-in-chief, but the whole mass
of the army, were tainted with foreign ooiTup-
tion, or were abettors of domestic treason, could
any man assign to himself a stronger reason than
this for breaking an army on the spot ? Did not
the gentleman know, or rather did he not feel,
that this House had the right of refusing the
supplies necessary for the army ? And could a
stronger reason be given for a refusal to pass
the military appropriation bill than that they
were nourishing an institution which threatened
our existence as a free and happy people ? Let
me, if it is in order, ask the gentleman from
Massachusetts to turn his attention to the pro-
ceeding of which we have official notice in an-



H. OF R.]

General Wilkinaon.

[Januaky, 1808.

other branch of the National Legislature, an
inquiry into the conduct of one of its own mem-
bers. Did they not all know that that man's
offence was punishable by a civil tribunal ? But
the inquiry was not there made with a view to
a trial, not to usurp the powers of the judiciary,
but to direct tliat body in the exercise of its
acknowledged legislative functions. Inasmuch
as they possessed the power to expel one of their
own members, to amputate the diseased limb,
they possessed the power, and exercised it, to
make an inquiry. Now, the gentleman from
Kentucky had just as much right to institute an
inquiry which might lead to the exercise of the
legislative powers of this House, which might
cause the disbanding of the present army, the
erection of another, or the refusal of supplies,
as to institute an Laquiry into the conduct of a
member with a view to his expulsion, or of an
Executive oflScer, with a view to impeach him
before the Senate.

Mr. R. therefore presumed that any inquiry
which this House might choose to make into
the conduct of any officer, civil or military, was
not an interference with the powers of any of
the oo-oi'dinate branches of Government ; they
were left free to move in their own orbits. If
a crime had been committed against the statute
law of the United States by such officer, the
judiciary were as free to punish it as it was free
to punish a member of this House, into whose
conduct, upon suspicion of treason or misde-
meanor, inquiry had been made, with a view to
his expulsion. The Executive likewise was left
free to exercise his discretion ; he was left ftee
to dismiss this officer, to inquire into his conduct
himself, either with his own eyes or ears, or by
a military court ; to applaud, or censure.

Did they take possession of the body of this
officer by an inquiry into his conduct? Did they
interfere with the court of inquiry now on foot,
but totally incompetent to the object ? Gentle-
men, indeed, had said, that if that court did not
possess the power of competing the attendance
of witnesses, we might clothe it with that power.
In expressing this opinion, the gentleman from
Massachusetts had not been more considerate
than in expressing his first opinion. Gould any
one conceive a more dreadful or terrible in-
strument oi persecution than a military court,
clothed with the power to coerce the evidence,
and the production of papers of private citizens?
Clothe them with this power, and there is not
a man in the United States who may not be
compelled to go, at whatsoever season, to the
remotest garrison, on whatsoever trifling occa-
sion, at the will of a court martial, or a court
of inquiry, leading to the establishment of a
court martial.

In the course of the present year, Mr. E. said
it had been his lot to receive, from no dubious
or suspicious source, information touching, not,
to be sure, the immediate subject on which an
inquiry had been moved by the gentleman from
Kentucky, but one intimately and closely con-
nected with it. He meant the project, through

the instrumentality of the Army of the United
States; to dismember the Union ; and he had no
hesitation in saying — and it had been the opin-
ion of a large majority, if not of every one of
those of whom he had been a colleagne— 4hat
the Army of the United States was tainted with
that disease ; and that, so far from the Army of
the United States having the credit of suppress-
ing that project, the moment it was found that
the courage of that Army had failed, the project
was abandoned by those who had undertaken it,
because the agency of the army was the whole
pivot on which that plot had turned I This was
in evidence before the grand jury, who had the
subject in cognizance last spring. He said that
these conspirators were caressed at the different
posts of the United States, in their way down
the river, and by officers of no small rank, that
they received arms from them, ajid the princi-
pal part of the arms these men had with them
was taken from the public stores ; and under a
knowledge of these circumstances, was he not
justified in the belief that the whole Army of
the United States was connected in the project?
He did not mean every individual, for there
were some who could not be trusted, and some
who were at posts too far distant to be reached.
That those who were confidants of the Com-
mander-in-chief were interested in the conspir-
acy, no man who knew any thing of the circum-
stances could doubt. He, therefore, thought
that the resolution moved by the gentlemwi
from Kentucky was every way reasonable, hi-
deed, he did not know whether the resolution
should not be so varied as to embrace not only
a charge of that natnre, but all whatsoever.

Before he sat down, he should have it in his
power to give to the House sometliing certainly
very much resembling evidence in support of
the justice of his suspicions on this subject. On
the 26th of January last, the House would per-
ceive by the Journals, a Message was received
from the President of the United States, " trans-
mitting further information touching an illegal
combination," &c., printed by order of the
House, and which he now held in his hand.
In this Message is contained the following affi-
davit :

" I, James Wilkinson, Brigadier General and Com-
mander-in-chief of the Army of the United States, to
warrant the arrest of Samuel Swartwout, James Alex-
ander, _Esq., and Peter V. Ogden, on a charge of trea-
son, misprision of treason, or such other offence against
the Government and laws of the United States, as the
following facts may legally charge them with, on the
honor of a soldier, and on the Holy Evangelists of Al-
mighty God, do declare and swear, that in the begin-
ning of the month of October last, when in command
at Natchitoches, a stranger was introduced to me by
Colonel Cushing, by the name of Swartwout, who, a
few mmutes atter the Colonel retired from the room,
slipped into my hand a letter of formal introduction
from Colonel Burr, of which the following is a coiTect

" 'Philadelphia, 25th July, 1806.
" ' Dear Sir : Mr. Swartwout, the brothor of Colonel
S., of Now York, being on his way down tho Missis-



jAiniAEY, 1808.]

General Willdnsaii,

[S. OF E.

sippi, and presuming that he may pass you at some
post on the river, has requested of me a letter of in-
troduction, which I give with pleasure, as he is a most
amiahle young man, and highly respectable from his
chajacter and connections. I pray you to afford liim
any friendly offices which his sitnation may require,
and beg you to pardon the trouble which this may
give yon.

" ' With entire respect, your friend and obedient
servant, A. BURR.

" ' His Exc'y Gkn. Wilkinsow.'

" Together with a packet, which he informed me
he was charged by the same person to deliver me in
private. This packet contained a letter in cipher from
Colonel Burr, of which the following is, substantially,
as fair an interpretation as 1 have heretofore been
able to make, the original of which I hold in my

Mr. Randolph said he should certainly have
abstained from noticing the oircnmstance he was
about to mention, and which he had believed
to be of general notoriety, had it not been that
within a very few days past, a gentleman, (with
whom Mr. R. was in habits of intimacy, and
whose means of information were as good as
those of any member of the House,) to his utter
surprise, informed Mr. R. that he was totally
ignorant of the fact.

Mr. R. said he held in his hand an actual in-
terpretation of this ciphered letter, which was
made in the grand-jury room at Richmond, by
three members of that body, for th'feir use, and
in. their presence-; and it was necessary here to
state, that so extremely delicate was General
Wilkinson, that hfe refused to leave the papers
in possession of the grand jury : whenever the
jury met, they were put into their hands, and
whenever they rose, the witness was called up,
and received them back again. Here was a
copy — ^rather a different oiie from that which,
" On the honor of a soldier, and on the Holy
Evangelists of Almighty God," was as fair an
interpretation as General WUkioson was able to
make. A comparison of the two would throw
a httle light on the subject. In the printed copy
of the last session might be read, "I (Aaron
Burr) have actually commenced the enterprise —
detachments from different points," &c. In the
original the words had been scratched out with
a inife, so as to cut the paper — " I have actually
commenced" — not the enterprise, but "the
Eastern detachments." Now mark ; by chang-
ing the word Eastern into enterprise, and mov-

Online LibraryUnited States. CongressAbridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856. From Gales and Seatons' Annals of Congress; from their Register of debates; and from the official reported debates, by John C. Rives → online text (page 159 of 183)