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

By Andro Linklater

For virtually twenty years, during the struggle of 1812, James Wilkinson used to be the senior normal within the usa military. Amazingly, he was once additionally Agent thirteen within the Spanish mystery carrier at a time whilst Spain's empire ruled North the USA. Wilkinson's audacious occupation as a double agent is the entire extra notable since it used to be an open mystery, circulated on a regular basis in newspapers and pamphlets. His saga illuminates simply how fragile and susceptible the younger republic used to be: No fewer than our first 4 presidents became a blind eye to his treachery and gambled that the mercurial normal may 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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Accusations of collusion were made by congressmen of every political persuasion. Nor were these charges overlooked. Presidents George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, together with half a dozen different secretaries of war, not to mention a score of their cabinet colleagues, were all aware of his close contacts with the Spanish authorities in New Orleans and Madrid. No fewer than four official inquiries were mounted into the allegations against the general. It is impossible to disguise the unease that treachery arouses.

On the hand, if Wilkinson retreated to deal with Burr, the border would be left undefended. 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.

Following Lee’s advice, however, Gates hurried to join Washington west of the Delaware River. He arrived on December 20, and with the addition of more than two thousand troops Washington at once began to plan a counterstroke against a Hessian brigade stationed across the river in Trenton, New Jersey. Believing the attack would fail, Gates refused to take part. With the excuse that he was ill, he left for Philadelphia, intending to travel on to Baltimore, where Congress had retreated to escape the threat of British marauders.

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