Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from James Wilkinson, 15 April 1807

New Orleans April 15th. 07


I transmit you a duplicate of my last, in which you will perceive my ignorance of the Arrangement, you had made for the Territory of Louisiana; and also of the violent & uncharitable attacks, made on my Character & Conduct, in the publick prints & even on the floor of Congress.—

Sunk by the severest domestic Calamity into a State of apathy & despondance, my Mind had fastened upon the “Luxury of Woe” & sought retirement for its indulgence; but the wanton cruel & wicked attacks made on my Honor, have roused me from the Lethargy into which I was falling, have excited my strongest indignation, & determined me to devote my Life, if necessary, to the vindication of my Fame.—

I defy Mr. Burr with all his Hellish Acts, His avowed adherents & concealed Friends, their Wealth, influence & Talents; but to you Sir who are best able to decide, I will presume to look for Orders & direction, in relation to time & place—Whether I shall proceed immediately to the seat of Government, or pending the Summer wait Events external & internal in this quarter, and repair thither in autumn preparatory to the meeting of Congress, are points on which I would be grateful for your Opinion & decision.—

I know Sir that I have saved this Country from Anarchy at least and I beleive that I have defeated the last Hope of your personal & political Enemies; these reflections passed to the Account of Gratitude & Patriotism, furnish an Endless [. . . .] of self applause, & will sooth the [. . . .]low of Death: and when the Object ceases to be, the Angry passions will slumber, candor & truth will resume their empire, and Posterity will do Justice to my Name & Services—

Adairs audacity & insolence exceeds credibility—This Man came to Kentucky from the frontier of South Carolina about the year 89 or 90; and in the year 91 at the earnest solicitation of Capt Javitt, known to you by the name of Jack Javitt, I appointed Mr. Adair an Aid de Camp, to attend me on an expedition against the Indians of the Wabash; His Conduct pleased me, & afterwards being authorized by General Washington, to Levy a Corps of Mounted Rifle Men I gave Mr Adair the Command, and he served under my Orders four or five Months, here he again acquited Himself to my Satisfaction;— hence the Friendship & confidance which ensued between us, and herein we behold the foundation of his political elevation.—The Letter which I am informed he ascribes to me, as written from Natchitoches, is marked no doubt with all the carelessness of entire confidence; But it could give Him no specific invitation to Time place or object, because it was intended as a preparative to Eve[nts] which the high tone of the Spaniards at the Time, induced me to beleive were inevitable—I have no recollection of the particular manner but I am certain I have explained the motives & import of that Letter & it is Equally certain I have received no Answer to it—But Sir compare the Information hereunto attached, & combine it to Adairs declaration to Lt. Mulford, that I hardly knew Col Burr, & that His visit to this place was to meet two provision Boats, which He expected from the Ohio, and, Independent of every other Testimony, his falsehood & Treachery is manifest.—

I tresspass the inclosed deposition on you, under the same motives which have heretofore governed me, in Cases where exparte Testiamony has gone to criminate the Characters of Men of respectability; In this case Capt. Bissell & Judge Bruin are deeply implicated, & I fear on strong grounds, because I have in my possession Bissells furlough for the twenty Days in his own Hand writing, indorsed by the Pen of Judge Bruin which is familiar to me; It is proper however to remark, that Captain Bissell has reported Dunbaugh as a Deserter, & it is due to Justice for me to declare, that I have found Him one of the best officers of his Grade—Yet the *Mans reputation is pure & his Testimony carries with it strong Marks of truth, to convict Mr. Burr of infamous Conduct in the Eyes of Morality, & of high misdemeanors in the Eye of the Law—I shall keep this person in safety & subject to the Orders of the Secy. of War—The Information of [. . . .] has not yet been taken, but I shall endeavour to have it ready for the ensuing Mail.—

Having transmited you the Substance of Burrs & Daytons Letters, & finding that my Honor is staked on the Authenticity of those Documents, I must confess I am reluctant to trust them out of my Possession, and the more especially as I apprehend they can be of no avail unless explained & substantiated by my oral Testimony—I must expose Dayton in my own defence, the Man deserves no quarter from me but I pity his Family— The only thing which has hurt me in this Business, is the Horrible innuendo of thrown out by Mr. Randolph, that I meditated Burrs assassination—look Sir at my Instructions to Dinsmoor & the certificate of Governor Claiborne under cover, & Judge whether I have merited this foul insinuation, even from the foul Mouth whence it Spued.—

As an illustration of the Characters & Conduct of our Judges here, I send you their recommendation of Workman, one of the most profligate unprincipled & abandoned Scoundrels on Earth, herein we behold the finger & the influence of Prevost—indeed sir the Country is not suited to the Government nor the Government to the Country—On the Jury first convened to try Kerr, Workmans associate, the Jurors were permited to leave their Room, they visited & dined with the Prisoner pending the trial, and Eat his Cake & drank his Wine when in panel—One of them in the Jury Room by name Williamson, the same who is mentioned by Alexander as the friend of Ogdon, drank “damnation to the President, the Constitution & the Laws, and to Him who would not drink the Toast” The Brother of this Young Man is of the House of Meeker Williamson & P[. . . .]ton of this City, to whom Bollmans Letters were in part addressed—He is I understand married to Daytons Daughter descended the Ohio & Mississippi with his Son & in their route called on Burr at Natchez—We have seen certain public functionaries here, affecting much Zeal in the prosecution of Workman & Kerr, merely to save appearances, because we have seen those atrocious Offenders acquited & Caressed, and yet Gentlemen at a thousand Miles distance will say, the Current of Justice is here pure & unobstructed.

The information inclosed is from a most confidential source, perhaps it may be employed as a clue, to certain ramifications of the Plot.—

I am again exercising my discretion in the face of my orders, under a sense of Duty to you & to the Nation, which may I hope justify my Conduct; The dispositions of the Secretary of War may properly enjoin me, to return the Garrison drawn from the Mobile & Tombigby last Autumn and in the Moment the Detachment was about to sail, I receive advice that the Spaniards were prepared to resist their passage up the Bay of Mobile—beleiving the occasion would not warrant a sudden appeal to Hostilities & the spilling of innocent Blood, I determine to suspend the movement, & addressed Governor Folch for an explanation of his intentions, who answers me that His Troops & vessels of War have orders to resist our passage—His Letter is a bald & an Interesting one—Our Correspondence has been forwarded to the Secretary of War, & a duplicate of it will accompany this Letter—In the mean time I wait explicit orders with impatience & shall avoid the collision of Arms until I receive them.—Here Sir, Almighty God can Witness, I make a great sacrifice of Personal feelings & inclination, to a sense of Duty & the rights of humanity; and instead of seeking the plaudits of the great Mass of the Western People, and the adventurous & discontented every where, by the execution of my Orders & spilling the Blood of the Spaniards, I expose myself to an additional charge of corruption, by the influence of Spanish Gold—It strikes me however, that this conflict of pretensions merits our serious consideration,—Let national rights be respected & Justice be done, compatibly with national Interests & national Dignity—Under present circumstances, the Conquest of Mobile & Pensacola would with the force I can command be but the Work of a fortnight—Give but the Word Sir & I will strike dumb one class of my Slanderers.—I fear I fatigue you and am with sincere respect & attachment.

Your faithful & obliged

Ja: Wilkinson

* Dunbaugh

DLC: Burr Conspiracy Collection.

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