Thursday, August 25, 2016

Scorpions in a Bottle: Rise of the Parties

In the course of writing For Want of a Nail, Sobel mostly skipped events between the end of the Trans-Oceanic War in 1799 and Jefferson's entry into the Mexican Civil War in 1815. Since this is pretty much the formative years of the independent State of Jefferson, I've decided that Scorpions in a Bottle is going to have an entire chapter devoted to this period. Below is the first half of Chapter 8: "The State of Jefferson."

* * *

Once the Jeffersonians completed the conquest of Tejas and northern Coahuila in 1798, all thoughts turned to Mexico City, and the expectation that Viceroy de la Grúa would respond to the Jeffersonian uprising by sending a Spanish army north. The Jeffersonians prepared as best they could, sending a delegation to the Comanche seeking an alliance against the Spanish, and fortifying the roads to Mexico City and Santa Fe. Hamilton even sent Monroe to Norfolk as an unofficial emissary to Bland, seeking help from the North Americans. By then, however, word of Major Jackson’s arrogant interview with Cornwallis and Curtis had reached the capitals of the C.N.A., and popular feeling against the Jeffersonians was at an all-time high there. [1]

It was against the backdrop of this anxiety concerning a Spanish counterattack that the Senatorial campaign of 1798 took place. Under the Lafayette Constitution, the terms of the fifteen-member Senate and the three-member Governate expired in January 1799. One of the oddities of the Jeffersonian constitution was that the two-year terms of the Chamber of Representatives were out of synch with the five-year terms of the senators and governors. As a result, the next class of senators would be chosen by the Chamber elected in 1797.

In the months before their terms expired, some of the senators began quietly canvassing members of the Chamber in hopes of securing enough votes to secure their reappointment. Rumors soon spread among the population of Jefferson of vote-buying within the legislature. The result was a wave of popular anger, not just against individual senators, but against the Senate as an institution. A statewide convention was soon organized with the goal of amending the Lafayette Constitution to abolish the Senate. In the course of the convention, which met in late September 1798, a faction appeared led by William Sayre and Samuel Curtis calling itself the Liberty Party that called for the direct election of the governors. When word reached General Hamilton, he sent a letter to the convention arguing that giving the governors an independent mandate would upset the balance of powers between the executive and legislative branches, increasing the risk of executive tyranny. Hamilton’s prestige was at its height at the time, and the convention chose to accept his counsel. The Senate’s power to choose the governors was transferred to the Chamber of Representatives. [2]

When the Chamber met in January 1799, Hamilton was offered another term as governor, but declined, stating that he preferred to remain at the head of the army while war with the Spanish continued. Johnston also declined a second term due to his declining health. Thus, Madison and Rush continued in office, while Monroe was elevated to replace Johnston.

When word of August Ferdinand’s elevation to the Spanish throne reached Jefferson City in the summer of 1799, Monroe presciently remarked, “Jenkinson thinks he has won Spain, but he has lost America.” [3] Events soon proved Monroe correct: by summer’s end, word came of Revillagigedo’s anti-royalist revolt in Mexico City, as well as others in Cuba, Santo Domingo, and Porto Rico. The threat of retaliation from Mexico City receded, and the leaders of the new state began the work of securing its independence.

The three governors appointed the late John Adams’ son John Quincy Adams Secretary of State, a frustrating office since no other nation was willing to recognize Jefferson as an independent state: Jenkinson’s government was opposed to any independence movements in Spanish America now that Spain had a friendly government; Louis XVII was firmly under the thumb of the Anglo-German alliance; [4] and the other revolutionary governments in Spanish America refused to recognize Jefferson for fear of antagonizing Revillagigedo.

The outbreak of the Mexican War of Independence led Hamilton to resign as commander of the Jeffersonian army. He then accepted the office of Secretary of the Exchequer, and set about putting Jefferson’s finances on a sound basis. Hamilton’s initial efforts to obtain a loan from a foreign government ran into the same difficulties as Adams’: no foreign government was willing to loan money to a state that lacked international recognition.

The salvation of the new nation’s finances came from a North American invention: the cotton gin. By mechanizing the process of separating cotton fibers from their seeds, the cotton gin removed a bottleneck in cotton production that resulted in a fifty-fold increase in cotton produced. A Northern Confederation inventor named Eli Whitney built the first cotton gin in 1793, and copies were soon found throughout the Southern Confederation and Jefferson. The outbreak of the Trans-Oceanic War delayed the growth of cotton production, but with the coming of peace in 1799 cotton production in Jefferson boomed.

The surge in cotton production brought with it a surge in demand for Negro slaves to cultivate it. This aroused the ire of the Liberty Party, who regarded slavery as antithetical to the ideals of the Rebellion. They called for the abolition of slavery, the repatriation of the freed slaves to Africa, and the transformation of Jefferson into the utopian republic of white yeoman farmers envisioned by Thomas Jefferson himself. [5]

While Hamilton himself disliked slavery, he believed that the new state needed the revenue that the cotton boom was bringing in, and slavery was a necessary component of the cotton boom. Jeffersonian ships were soon a common sight in Caribbean ports, their masters bidding fiercely on newly-arrived West African slaves. As the boom continued, the ships ventured across the Atlantic to the slave depots of Whydah and Lagos, purchasing slaves to be transported directly to Henrytown.

Hamilton himself articulated an alternative to the Libertarians’ agrarian utopianism. As the Mexican War of Independence unfolded, and New Spain descended into a maelstrom of violence and chaos, Hamilton came to believe that the Jeffersonians had a duty, a “continental destiny” as he put it, to take control of the country and guide it toward economic prosperity (including slave-based cotton cultivation) and orderly government. Hamilton’s Continental Destiny ideology attracted a large following in Jefferson, including many members of the government. [6]

As the 1803 elections approached, Hamilton’s followers organized themselves into a party in opposition to the Libertarians, calling themselves the Continentalists. Governors Madison and Rush tended to sympathize with the Libertarians, and by the summer of 1803 both groups had put forward slates of candidates for the Chamber of Representatives, and nominees for the Governate. Monroe broke with his former mentor Madison and joined Hamilton and John Gaillard as a Continentalist nominee for the Governate. Madison and Rush chose Sayre to replace Monroe in their own Libertarian ticket. On election day, October 5, the Continentalist candidates won 44 out of 58 seats in the Chamber, and at their first session on Monday, December 19, voted for the Hamilton-Monroe-Gaillard ticket for the Governate. [7]

1. Bruce. The Life of Governor Theodorick Bland of Virginia, pp. 410-412.

2. David Christman. The Origins of Political Parties in Jefferson (Mexico City, 1960), pp. 44-53.

3. Alexander Hamilton. Memoirs (Jefferson City, 1814), II, pp. 119-20.

4. After the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, King Frederick William III of Prussia, with Jenkinson’s encouragement, created a political union among the victorious allied German states called the Germanic Confederation. This left the Holy Roman Empire in an untenable position, leading Francis II to dissolve it and proclaim himself Emperor of Austria.

5. Peter Collins. The Liberty Party in Old Jefferson (Mexico City, 1954).

6. Christman. The Origins of Political Parties in Jefferson, pp. 107-15.

7. Henry Cisneros. The 1803 Elections and the Rise of Partisanship (Jefferson City, 2009).

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Scorpions in a Bottle: The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle

We continue with chapter 7 of Scorpions in a Bottle. Today's section looks briefly at the Trans-Oceanic War in Europe and the terms of the peace treaty ending it.

* * *

In Europe, the 1795 Franco-Austrian invasion of the German states had initially gone well for the two Catholic powers, with the French crossing the Rhine to occupy the Duchy of Wurtemburg and the Palatinate, while the Austrians occupied Silesia and advanced through Saxony toward Berlin. Jenkinson responded by sending British troops to the German states, where they successfully halted the French and Austrian advances. However, the Anglo-German forces lacked the strength to push the French and Austrian armies back, and the war in Germany settled down into a stalemate for several years.

The stalemate ended abruptly when the Russians concluded their conquest of Poland in 1798 and declared war on Austria, which had been providing covert aid to the Poles. Faced with a new enemy in the east, the Austrians withdrew most of their troops from Prussia, allowing the Anglo-Prussian army to focus on the French.

Two decisive battles took place within days of each other in September. On September 11, an Austrian army led by Francis II was defeated at the Battle of Kremsier by a Russian army led by Mikhail Kutuzov. Seven days later, an Anglo-German army under the overall command of Arthur Wellesley defeated a French army under Charles François Dumouriez at the Battle of Heilbronn. When news of the two defeats reached Paris, Marie Antoinette was removed from the regency by the king’s uncles, who sued for peace. [1]

While negotiators met at Aix-la-Chapelle to work out a peace treaty, an anti-monarchist uprising took place in Paris. The French royal family was driven out of the country and a republic was declared. Fearing the breakdown of order in France, Jenkinson ordered Wellesley to enter Paris and put down the rebellion. With Anglo-German troops occupying Paris and the French monarchy dependent on them for its survival, the terms of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle were dictated from London and Berlin.

The final treaty was ratified on March 1, 1799. It confirmed the loss of the Floridas and Louisiana to the British, and required the Austrians to cede Galicia to the Russians and Austrian Silesia and northern Moravia to the Prussians. Although the victorious allies declined to annex any French territory, France was required to pay an indemnity of 40 million livres to Prussia and the other German states, which placed a further strain on French finances. Finally, in an effort to end the Franco-Spanish alliance, the Bourbon king of Spain, Charles IV, was deposed, and Prince August Ferdinand of Prussia, youngest brother of the late Frederick the Great, was set on the Spanish throne as Ferdinand VII. [2]

News that a Protestant prince was being placed on the Spanish throne caused consternation in Spain and throughout the Spanish Empire. British garrisons in several Spanish cities were set upon by mobs. The uprisings in the cities were put down, but armed irregulars called “guerrillas” made much of the Spanish countryside hazardous for British troops. [3]

When news of Ferdinand’s enthronement reached Spanish America, the result was a series of uprisings, with most of the Spanish garrison troops joining the rebels. In Mexico City, the leading figure in the rebellion was former viceroy Juan Vicente de Güemes Padilla, the Count of Revillagigedo, who had governed the colony from 1789 to 1794. Revillagigedo’s successor, Miguel de la Grúa Talamanca, supported the new king, and the result was a six-year civil war. Revillagigedo’s rebellion attracted the support of New Spain’s clergy, most notably Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla and José María Morelos. The Mexican War of Independence ended with Revillagigedo’s victory and the withdrawal of the last loyalist Spanish soldiers on March 17, 1805. [4]

1. Sir Wilfred Eddington. The Five Years’ War (London, 2003), pp. 466-79.

2. There has never been any consensus among historians on the war’s name. In the New World it is known as the Trans-Oceanic War, while British historians call it the Five Years’ War and continental historians call it the Habsburg War.

3. Spain remained ungovernable for years until King Ferdinand abdicated in favor of his son Louis Ferdinand, who had converted to Catholicism after the family moved to Madrid. Esteban Gutierrez. Luis Fernando and the Spanish Hohenzollerns (Mexico City, 1938).

4. Carlos Ortez. The Birth of Mexico (Mexico City, 1979).

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Scorpions in a Bottle: The Louisiana War

Today's excerpt from Scorpions in a Bottle is the third section of Chapter 7: The Trans-Oceanic War, and tells of the Southern Confederation's conquest of Spanish Louisiana in 1797-98.

* * *

In the Southern Confederation, the proposed expedition to New Orleans was delayed for a year while the S.C. militia under General Edward Curtis and Captain Nelson’s fleet were diverted to West Florida to assist the Georgia militia. A combined S.C.-British force captured the West Floridian capital of Pensacola on July 22, 1796, after a three-week siege that saw the besieging armies decimated by an outbreak of yellow fever. By the time Pensacola fell, illness had left less than half of the combined force fit for duty, and Cornwallis chose to end the campaign and return to Halifax. [1]

Curtis traveled to Halifax in the spring of 1797 to meet with Cornwallis and Nelson, and there the three men planned to renew the campaign. Cornwallis’s men boarded Nelson’s transports in June while Curtis returned to Pensacola to organize the overland march to New Orleans. The British fleet returned to Pensacola in July, and the S.C. militia set off three days later, traveling along the Gulf coast with Nelson’s ships sailing offshore. The combined force laid siege to Mobile on August 12, and the settlement quickly capitulated. The same occurred two weeks later when the combined force arrived at the settlement of Biloxi. From there, the two forces split up, with Curtis’s militia making their way around the western shore of Lake Pontchartrain while Nelson’s fleet sailed up the Mississippi. The two forces reunited just outside of New Orleans in late September, and the Spanish governor of Louisiana formally surrendered the city on October 1. [2]

Major Jackson’s force of Jeffersonians still occupied the log fort they had constructed nineteen months before, and Jackson himself traveled to New Orleans two days after the city’s fall to inform Cornwallis and Curtis of Jefferson’s separation from the Spanish Empire. He also, on his own initiative, laid claim to all of Louisiana southwest of the Mississippi-Arkansas river complex on behalf of the State of Jefferson.

Although Jackson was only eight when the Rebellion broke out, his family were well-known rebel sympathizers. After the restoration of British rule in the Carolinas, Jackson and two of his brothers were imprisoned by British troops. Conditions in the stockade where they were held were onerous, and both brothers died during their captivity; Jackson developed a fierce, lifelong hatred of the British as a result. [3] While in New Orleans, he behaved with notable rudeness to both Cornwallis and Curtis, threatening military action against the Southern Confederation if his claims on behalf of Jefferson were ignored by their troops. Cornwallis and Curtis debated attacking Jackson’s outpost, but Curtis was under orders from Connolly to move upriver and occupy the Franco-Spanish settlements at Baton Rouge and St. Louis, so the two men agreed to respect Jackson’s claims. [4]

From New Orleans, Nelson’s fleet sailed upriver in November, and the two armies followed on land. After capturing Baton Rouge on November 17, Cornwallis and Curtis decided to establish a winter camp there and make preparations to continue the campaign in the spring. The armies constructed a large encampment called Fort George and settled down for the winter, while Nelson returned with most of his fleet to New Orleans.

Reorganized and resupplied, the combined army marched north from Baton Rouge in April 1798. They encountered no organized resistance from the Spanish, but endured several attacks by Indian war parties before reaching Fort Radisson in July. Pausing for a week in the Indianan capital to resupply and care for their sick and injured, the armies marched north to St. Louis, the northernmost Franco-Spanish outpost on the Mississippi, which was captured on August 25. With the fall of St. Louis, all of Louisiana north of the Arkansas River was in North American hands.

1. Pickett. The Florida War, pp. 121-33.

2. Roscoe Chettering. The Conquest of Louisiana (New York, 1897), pp. 83-87.

3. Alice Rich. Jackson: The Third Founder (Mexico City, 1967), pp. 24-39.

4. Miles. Jefferson in the Trans-Oceanic War, pp. 371-78.