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project. The latter charge rests almost entirely upon the evidence of General Eaton, a gentleman whose chivalrous disposition led him through many singular adventures, and whose history, as recorded by himself, presents a more favorable picture of his heart and genius than of his judgment. He was a man of warm temperament, who adopted hasty and vivid impressions from the impulse of the moment. From his testimony, I should be inclined to believe, that Colonel Burr had cherished some vague ideas respecting a disjunction of the Union; but it does not appear that those speculations were ever matured into any settled plan, of confided to his adherents. I am led to this conclusion, by the characters of Colonel Burr and the gentlemen who were implicated with him in his disastrous expedition. Burr was a man of extended views, a close observer of men and manners; and it is not to be presumed, that he would have lightly embraced a scheme so fraught with treason, madness and folly. He knew the American people well. He had studied them with the eye of a statesman, and with the intense interest of an ambitious political aspirant. His rank in society, his political station, and his extensive practice at the bar, threw open a wide and varied scene to his observation, and exhibited his countrymen to him in a variety of lights and shades.
Nor was Burr the man upon whom such opportunities would be lost. To him, the avenues of the huhuman heart were all familiar, and he could penetrate with ease into its secret recesses. To study man was his delight - to study his countrymen his business. Could he then have been a stranger to their intelligence, their sense of honor, their habits of calculation, and their love for their republican institutions? Could he expect to transform at once, the habits, feelings, tastes, and morals of a people conspicuous for their courage and political integrity?--for such are the people of the western states. It has been supposed, and with some plausibility, that his hopes were founded on the dissatisfaction evinced by the western people, at the time of the discussion of our right to navigate the Mississippi. It is true, that the rude and unprovoked violation of our privileges on that river by Spain, excited an universal burst of indignation throughout the Union. It is also true, that this feeling was most warmly displayed in the west. In the Atlantic states, the insult was felt as implicating our national honor; in the west, it was a matter of vital importance to all, and of personal interest to every individual, and as such it came home to men's business and bosoms. The Mississippi was the natural outlet, and New Orleans the mart for the produce of the west; and when that market, to which they believed they had an indefeasible right of access, was barred to them, it was but the natural and common impulse of the human mind, which induced a people, at all times proud, impetuous, and tenacious, to call for vengeance and redress, with a sternness and impatience commensurate with their injuries. The conciliatory spirit and tardy policy of Mr. Jefferson, neither satisfied their feelings, nor suited their exigencies; and they were willing to impute to tameness in the executive, or to a disregard
for their interests, that which might have been the result of national weakness or mistaken policy. Believing themselves to be abandoned by the general government, they felt it a duty to protect their own invaded rights; and if the government had not interposed with effect, they would doubtless have drawn the sword-against whom? the government? No, but against the common enemy.
In this there was no treason nor disaffection-no estrangement from their sister states, no breach of faith with the government, nor violation of the compact. It was saying only to their federal head—“defend us, or we will defend ourselves."
If Colonel Burr expected to fan these feelings into rebellion, he had either more boldness or less wisdom, than has commonly been placed to his credit; and had he openly avowed this project, he would have called down upon his head the imprecations of a people, who, if they had spared his life, would not have forgiven so foul an insult to their virtue and understanding. But let us ask who were the adherents of Colonel Burr? Who were they who were to share his fortunes, to reap with him the proud laurels of successful valor, or the infamy of foul rebellion? Were they persons of obscure name and desperate fortune, or were they men of good blood and fair fame? These questions are embarrassed with some uncertainty, because most of the gentlemen who have been accused of adhering to Colonel Burr, have denied the fact; and I wish not to assume any thing as a fact, on this delicate subject, which is, or has been controverted. But it is not denied that many “prosperous gentlemen” were engaged in this enterprise; and many others suspected, with a belief so strong as to amount almost to certainty; and among these were men whom the people have since exalted to the most important trusts, and confided in with the most implicit reliance. Among them were men of high standing, who had reputations to be tarnished, fortunes to be lost, and families to be embarrassed; and many high-souled youths, whose proud aspirings after fame could never have been gratified amid the horrors of a civil war and the guilty scenes of rebellion.
It is argued against these gentlemen, that they have uniformly denied their connexion with Burr, which it is supposed they would not have done had they known his designs to be innocent. But this I do not conceive to be a fair argument. The united voice of the whole nation had declared Burr to be a traitor, and his adherents shared the obloquy which was heaped upon their misguided leader. Even admitting their innocence, or their own belief of it, still it would have been a hopeless task for this handful of men to oppose their feeble asseverations to the “ voice potential ” of a whole people. Many of them, also, were candidates for office, and they found the avenues to preferment closed by the anathemas pronounced by the people against all who were concerned in what they believed to have been rank conspiracy. They might, therefore, have bent to the current which they could not stem.
Blannerhasset was an Irish gentleman of easy fortune -a man devoted to science, who retired from
the world, in the hope of finding happiness in the union of literary and rural occupation. He selected this island as his retreat, and spared no expense in beautifying and improving it. He is described as having been retired in his habits, amiable in his propensities, greatly addicted to chemical studies, and a passionate lover of music. In this romantic spot, and in these innocent pursuits he lived; and, to crown the enchantment of the scene, a wife, who is said to have been lovely even beyond her sex, and graced with every accomplishment that could render it irresistible, had blessed him with her love, and made him the father of her children. But Blannerhasset, in an evil hour, became acquainted with Burr-he imbibed the poison of his ambition, became involved in his intrigues, and shared his ruin—a ruin as complete, desolate, and hopeless, as his former state had been serene and bright.
Whatever were Burr's intentions, it is certain that they embraced schemes so alluring, or so magnificent, as to win the credulous Blannerhasset from the abstraction of study and the blandishments of love. This island became the centre of operations. Here arms were deposited and men collected; and here, assembled round their watch-fires, young gentlemen, who “had seen better days,” and “ sat at good men's feasts,” endured all the rigors of the climate and the privations of a campaign, rewarding themselves in anticipation, with the honors of war and the wealth of Mexico. Burr and Blannerhasset were the master spirits who planned their labors; Mrs. Blannerhasset was the light and life of all