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chaise, Depeau, Mathurin, and Gregnon, were despatched to Kentucky. They were furnished with military commissions, and full powers from the French government, for the purpose of raising an army, with which to invade the Spanish possessions on the Mississippi; a measure, which it was hoped would involve the government of the United States, and force her into a war with Spain. The openness with which these agents proceeded, is quite apparent in the easy impudence of the following letter from one of them to Governor Shelby, in which the writer's facility in the use of the English language, seems to be about equal to his knowledge of the people.
66 Citizen Governor,— It may appear quite strange to write to you on a subject in which although it is of some consequence.
“With confidence from the French ambassador, I have been despatched, in company with more Frenchmen, to join the expedition of the Mississippi.
“ As I am to procure the provision, I am happy to communicate to you, whatever you shall think worthy of my notice, or in which your advice may be of use to me, as I hope I have in no way disoblige you; if I have, I will most willingly ask your pardon. For nobody can be no more than I am willing for your prosperity and happiness.
“As some strange reports has reached my ears that your excellence has positive orders to arrest all citizens inclining to our assistance, and as my remembrance know by your conduct, in justice you will satisfy me in this uncommon request.
66 Please let me know, as I shall not make my supply till your excellence please to honor me with a small answer.
“ I am your well-wisher in remaining for the French cause, a true citizen democrat.
66 CHARLE DEPEAU. “ Postcript.—Please to participate some of these handbills to that noble society of democrats."
A number of persons were induced to engage in this enterprise; a distinguished citizen of Kentucky, received a commission as “Major General in the armies of France, and Commander-in-chief of the French revolutionary legions on the Mississippi," and many preliminary arrangements were made for the anticipated campaign. The government of the United States became apprized of these measures, and promptly interfered. General Wayne, then at the head of the troops west of the Ohio, took measures to observe the motions of the French emissaries, and Governor St. Clair issued a proclamation, in which the people of the northwestern territory were advised to abstain from any participation in these illegal proceedings.
In glancing hastily at these events, we are cheered with the instructive lesson which they teach. There have been several instances in the history of our country, when disaffection has broken out into murmur and menace; in every instance, men of talent have been found among the ambitious fomenters of discord; but the good sense and integrity of the people, has invariably been found sufficient to protect them from being seduced into rebellion. Of all such events, those to which we have just alluded, afford
perhaps the most decided proofs of incorruptible loyalty and patriotism. If ever there was a people, who, in the choice of a government, had a right to act precisely as suited their own convenience, the pioneers were entitled to that privilege. They had conquered a country for themselves. The government did not extend to them either civil protection, military assistance, or pecuniary aid. They are the only first settlers, who neither violated the rights of the. Indian, by taking his land by violence, nor expended money in its purchase. They found it without an owner, overrun by savage hunters and war parties, whose conflicting claims were no better than their own. They purchased it with blood and labor. Years were spent in painful marches, and midnight vigils, in hewing down the gigantic forest, exterminating the wolf and the panther, and in guarding against the wiles of the savage. Through every peril, through all discouragement, they persevered unaided. The government could not aid them; when the settlement of Kentucky commenced, she was herself engaged in the war for independence; at a later period, she had just passed through that contest, and remained an exhausted, breathless victor.
The settlers of Kentucky had not only been unaccustomed to the protection or restraints of government, but there was some reason to believe, that the federal jurisdiction could never be efficiently extended over them. The mountains formed then a line of separation which seemed insurmountable. The hunter crossed them with much toil, and the enterprising trader conducted his train of pack-horses with difficulty and long delay over their steep acclivities; but the idea of a frequent, easy, and cheap method of intercourse, was not entertained nor deemed possible.
Inhabiting a rich country, destined to become populous, and to yield the products of the earth in abundance, they naturally looked around them for a market. The mountains separated them from the marts of their countrymen on the sea-coast; to the north were the lakes and the possessions of Great Britain; the western frontier was lined with hostile savages, with whom they could not hope to carry on any profitable traffic; to the west, the Spaniards, living under a rigid system of commercial non-intercourse, closed their markets forever against foreigners. The noble river that swept their shores, and seemed destined by Providence as the great highway by which the dwellers in this region should seek the ocean, was shut against them.
The right to navigate the Mississippi, became early a theme of animated discussion in Kentucky, and the subject of urgent remonstrances to the government. The government hesitated and temporized; surrounded with the cares and perils which assailed the infancy of our national institutions, the small still voice from the distant wilderness, fell faintly upon the executive ear. When the language of expostulation and defiance became loud, it was drowned in the dissensions of party violence; for by this time, the French revolution had broken out; political divisions had sprung up in our country; two great parties were contending for power; and the complaints of the
Kentuckians were attributed to the disorganizing zeal of partisans.
Let it be remembered too, that this was a period peculiarly propitious to the work of revolution. The American colonies had just separated from the mother country; the people were become familiar with the discussion of political rights, and accustomed to think for themselves. That reluctance with which men regard a change of government, and which induces them to submit to'evils which are known, rather than plunge darkly into such as are unseen, had been dispelled by recent events; there was an excitement in the public mind, an awakened energy
in the tone of thought, which had prepared the people for decisive action in any case demanded by their interests, and justified by their notions of moral or political honesty. At such a period, Spain held out a tempting bait to the enterprising settlers of the west. She offered them a free navigation of the Mississippi, and a market at New Orleans, upon the condition of their erecting an independent western republic; but the affections of the western people could not be thus alienated from their own countrymen; they could not be bribed to dissolve their connection with those to whom they were bound by the ties of consanguinity and honor, or to abandon, in its infancy and weakness, a government to which they owed nothing but the voluntary homage of respect and preference.
The offers of the French government were still more alluring. They were invited to invade the Spaniards, against whom they were exasperated by