An Artist in Treason: The Extraordinary Double Life of by Andro Linklater

By Andro Linklater

For nearly twenty years, throughout the conflict of 1812, James Wilkinson used to be the senior basic within the usa military. Amazingly, he used to be additionally Agent thirteen within the Spanish mystery provider at a time while Spain's empire ruled North the USA. Wilkinson's audacious occupation as a double agent is all of the extra amazing since it was once an open mystery, circulated usually in newspapers and pamphlets. His saga illuminates simply how fragile and susceptible the younger republic was once: No fewer than our first 4 presidents grew to become a blind eye to his treachery and gambled that the mercurial common could by no means betray the military itself and use it too overthrow the nascent union—a religion that was once finally rewarded.

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At a time when Spain’s empire dominated North America, occupying until 1803 an area three times that of the United States, General Wilkinson not only passed on his country’s strategic secrets, he sought to detach Kentucky from the Union and wrote detailed plans advising the Spanish authorities on the best way to prevent American expansion beyond the Mississippi. ” That evocative description aptly conveys the reputation that Wilkinson enjoys today. Yet one aspect of his career as a secret agent should make one pause.

The general’s choice would determine the future of the United States. Although the straightforward Cushing did not realize it, another, more secret outcome weighed equally heavily with the general. Whether he turned against Aaron Burr or helped him, James Wilkinson risked being exposed as a traitor himself. S. army. Throughout that period, he was also Agent 13 in the Spanish secret service. At a time when Spain’s empire dominated North America, occupying until 1803 an area three times that of the United States, General Wilkinson not only passed on his country’s strategic secrets, he sought to detach Kentucky from the Union and wrote detailed plans advising the Spanish authorities on the best way to prevent American expansion beyond the Mississippi.

In Whig mythology, “a standing army” was, therefore, always viewed as a threat to democratic, civilian government. The nightmare was acted out in France on November 9, 1799, when Napoléon used his troops to sweep aside a government and constitution approved by half a million French voters. To many of the founding generation of Americans, and especially to Thomas Jefferson’s followers, it was clear that the republic had to counter this inescapable threat. Successive administrations gambled that the general’s influence in taming the army would outweigh the risk of his tendency to treachery.

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