CHAPTER XXIII
DICTATORSHIP IN NEW ORLEANS

I. GOOSEFLESH AND SWORD RATTLING

ON October 21, 1806, Wilkinson had sent his famous warning to Jefferson; on November 12th he had written that he was about to be overwhelmed by furious bands of descending Burrites, and on the same day he was alarming poor, befuddled Claiborne with a letter well calculated to shake the heart of the stoutest man. Sacredly Confidential. "You are surrounded by dangers of which you dream not and the destruction of the American Union is seriously menaced. The Storm will probably burst on New Orleans, when I shall meet it & triumph or perish." There are spies in every nook and cranny; be secret, oh, Claiborne, and act so "that no Emotions may be betrayed." The plot "implicates thousands and among them some of your particular friends as well as my own." Hasten and fortify the town, turn over artillery, troops, everything, to the savior, Wilkinson!1

Turgid bombast, of course, but quite effective for its purpose, which was to scare both Claiborne and New Orleans out of their respective wits, to sow the seeds of distrust between friend and friend, to prepare the way for his assumption of all power and unrestricted authority. If this letter were not sufficient to throw Claiborne into a state of panic, the letter soon to follow from Jackson completed the task.

Yet, in spite of denunciation, of hobgoblins thick and threatening, the amazing Savior of his Country took his good and leisurely time in reaching the threatened town. It was not until November 25th that Wilkinson rode with pomp and circumstance into the city of New Orleans. Bursting with importance, yet maintaining an ominous silence, he took up his Headquarters. The way had been well paved. The citizens were uneasy, alarmed with vague rumors; treachery and conspiracy were in the air, the fortifications were being hastily strengthened, the Governor looked grim and a bit frightened. The conditions were ideal for utter panic, for utter relaxation of power to a self-announced Dictator.

Claiborne had been having his own difficulties with the populace over whom he was placed. He was the uneasy master of a rest

-364-

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