University of Virginia Library

Search this document 
The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;

expand sectionA. 
expand sectionB. 
expand sectionC. 
expand sectionD. 
expand sectionE. 
expand sectionF. 
expand sectionG. 
expand sectionH. 
expand sectionI. 
expand sectionJ. 
expand sectionK. 
expand sectionL. 
expand sectionM. 
expand sectionN. 
expand sectionO. 
expand sectionP. 
expand sectionQ. 
expand sectionR. 
expand sectionS. 
expand sectionT. 
collapse sectionU. 
8668. UNION (The Federal), Foreign plots against.—
expand sectionV. 
expand sectionW. 
expand sectionX. 
expand sectionY. 
expand sectionZ. 

expand section 
expand section 

8668. UNION (The Federal), Foreign plots against.—

The request of a communication
of any information, which may have
been received at any time since the establishment
of the present [Federal] Government,
touching combinations with foreign nations
for dismembering the Union, or the corrupt
receipt of money by any officer of the United
States, from the agents of foreign governments,
can be complied with but in a partial
degree. It is well understood that, in the first
or second year of the presidency of General
Washington, information was given to him
relating to certain combinations with the
agents of a foreign government for the dismemberment
of the Union; which combinations
had taken place before the establishment
of the present Federal Government. This
information, however, is believed never to
have been deposited in any public office, or
left in that of the President's secretary, these
having been duly examined, but to have been
considered as personally confidential, and
therefore, retained among his private papers.
A communication from the Governor of Virginia
to General Washington, is found in the
office of the President's secretary, which,
though not strictly within the terms of the
request of the House of Representatives, is
communicated, inasmuch as it may throw
some light on the subjects of the correspond
ence of that time, between certain foreign
agents and citizens of the United States. In
the first or second year of the administration
of President Adams, Andrew Ellicott, then
employed in designating, in conjunction with
the Spanish authorities the boundaries between
the territories of the United States
and Spain, under the treaty with that nation,
communicated to the Executive of
the United States papers and information
respecting the subjects of the present inquiry,
which were deposited in the office of State.
Copies of these are now transmitted to the
House of Representatives, except of a single
letter and a reference from the said Andrew
Ellicott, which being expressly desired to be
kept secret, is, therefore, not communicated,
but its contents can be obtained from him in
a more legal form, and directions have been
given to summon him to appear as a witness
before the court of inquiry. [Wilkinson court
of inquiry.] A paper “on the commerce of
Louisiana”, bearing date of the 18th of April,
1798, is found in the office of State, supposed
to have been communicated by Mr. Daniel
Clark, of New Orleans, then a subject of
Spain, and now of the House of Representatives
of the United States, stating certain
commercial transactions of General Wilkinson,
in New Orleans; an extract from this is
now communicated, because it contains facts
which may have some bearing on the questions
relating to him. The destruction of the
War Office, by fire, in the close of 1800, involved
all information it contained at that
date. The papers already described, therefore,
constitute the whole information on the
subjects, deposited in the public offices, during
the preceding administrations, as far as has
yet been found; but it cannot be affirmed that
there may be no others, because the papers of
the office being filed, for the most part, alphabetically,
unless aided by the suggestion
of any particular name which may have given
such information, nothing short of a careful
examination of the papers in the offices generally,
could authorize such affirmation.
About a twelvemonth after I came to the administration
of the government, Mr. Clark
gave some verbal information to myself, as
well as to the Secretary of State, relating to
the same combination for the dismemberment
of the Union. He was listened to freely, and
he then delivered the letter of Governor Gagoso,
addressed to himself, of which a copy
is now communicated. After his return to
New Orleans, he forwarded to the Secretary
of State other papers, with a request, that,
after perusal, they should be burned. This,
however, was not done, and he was so informed
by the Secretary of State, and that
they would be held subject to his order.
These papers have not yet been found in the
office. A letter, therefore, has been addressed
to the former chief clerk, who may, perhaps,
give information respecting them. As far as
our memories enable us to say, they related
only to the combinations before spoken of,
and not at all to the corrupt receipt of money
by any officer of the United States; conse


Page 893
quently, they respected what was considered
as a dead matter, known to the preceding
administrations, and offering nothing new to
call for investigations, which those nearest the
dates of the transactions had not thought
proper to institute. In the course of the communications
made to me on the subject of the
conspiracy of Aaron Burr, I sometimes received
letters, some of them anonymous, some
under names true or false, expressing suspicions
and insinuations against General Wilkinson.
But only one of them and that
anonymous, specified any particular fact, and
that fact was one of those which had already
been communicated to a former administration.
No other information within the purview
of the request of the House is known to
have been received by any department of the
Government from the establishment of the
present Federal Government. That which has
recently been communicated to the House of
Representatives, and by them to me, is the
first direct testimony ever made known to
me, charging General Wilkinson with the corrupt
receipt of money; and the House of Representatives
may be assured that the duties
which this information devolves on me shall
be exercised with rigorous impartiality.
Should any want of power in the court to
compel the rendering of testimony, obstruct
that full and impartial inquiry, which alone
can establish guilt or innocence, and satisfy
justice, the legislative authority only will be
competent to the remedy. [497]
Special Message. Washington ed. viii, 90.
(Jan. 1808)


In a subsequent message Jefferson informed Congress
that the Clark letters had been found, and
transmitted some extracts from them. As to combinations
with foreign agents for the dismemberment
of the Union they contained nothing new, “nor
have we found any intimation of the corrupt receipt
of money by any officer of the United States from
any foreign nation”.—Editor.