Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The History of Political Discourse (Part II)

Wilkinson was also a shady customer before meeting up with Burr. He was an agent for Spain and committed treason by supplying them with U.S. secrets. Wilkinson was playing both sides of the fence. For instance, Wilkinson informed Spain of Western exploration missions headed by the United States government including the Lewis and Clark expedition. Wilkinson tips ended several missions along the Red River and nearly ended the Lewis and Clark trip. Obviously Spain saw these exploratory missions as a means to understand the terrain and spy on them. They feared this information could be used for a future attack.

Wilkerson used Captain Zebulon Pike to head exploratory missions of his own. Pike went searching for the Mississippi River origins in Northern Minnesota and later took up a more dangerous expedition to find the origins of the Red River and Arkansas River. Pike was probably “not in the know” of the Burr – Wilkinson conspiracy, but Wilkinson probably hoped that Pike would get caught by the Spanish on his mission. American soldiers caught on Spanish territory may spark the war Wilkinson and Burr wanted. Pike was caught, but he said he was lost (probably true). Pike wondered onto the Rio Grande and had mistaken it as the Red River. Pike was interrogated and sent home without incident.

Burr became impatient and wanted to attack Spain while Pike was on his trip. Wilkinson sent a letter to Jefferson explaining Burr’s plans. Burr was arrested and put on trial for treason in front of the Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Marshall omitted much evidence in the case and Burr was found innocent.

Wilkinson probably wanted to provoke a war with Spain and make it look like a mistake (Pike was his pawn). Pike was later cleared of being part of the conspiracy and that he was just following orders of a superior. Although Pike’s expeditions contributed to the knowledge of the West, he was not seen as a hero like Lewis and Clark. Pike was within a few miles of actually finding the Arkansas River origination point when he ventured as far as present day Leadville Colorado. Pikes Peak was named after the explorer. Pike went on to make Brigadier General and won the battle of York (Toronto) in the War of 1812. Pike could have stayed behind and watched the battle from afar, but he fought with his men and it cost him his life at a mere 34 years of age. This certainly does not sound like the character of someone who was a traitor. No, Pike was an American hero.

The Burr – Wilkinson conspiracy always gave me promise that at least modern politics has not stooped to this level. However, the Trump and Clinton election of 2016 is not that far away. Clinton should be in prison because of her handling of national security information. This is not too far from committing treason. And Trump proudly admits to having paid off politicians (campaign contributions) for quid pro quo purposes. And both the personas of Clinton and Trump strike me as vindictive, similar to both Wilkinson and Burr. I suppose the good news is they have not committed murder, at least not yet. Although Trump has said he could kill someone on 5th Avenue in New York City in broad daylight and get away with it. Yes, we are in a sad state of affairs, and it is getting worse every election year.

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