tv Explorer William Clark and Smuggling CSPAN September 19, 2015 9:00pm-9:50pm EDT
>> you are watching american history tv. to join the conversation, like us on facebook at c-span history. tv, at american history discussion on william clark. activitieseasonous for he embarked on an exhibition with meriwether clark. jo ann: i'm here to speak about the william clark you may not know about. most of you have seen the billboard showing the william clark that we think we know. the billboard is two or three blocks away at the corner of the i-70 overpass. it is a mural on a brick wall and it is a large building, so
it is quite a big mural. it shows lewis and clark and the lewis and clark expedition. i think that is the caption on it. it shows clark -- well, we think of him as stolid and stoic and basically simple. i don't mean intellectually challenged, but just as an uncomplicated individual. i think that is the understanding we have all been handed down. if we thought of the more complex of the two, we would probably vote for meriwether lewis, who committed suicide in 1809. after you are familiar with what i have to present, you might vote for clark because until now, we have not known about him. i want to talk about how i came upon this information. i am a lawyer and i have done
research into the history of st. charles, which is my birthplace, too. i wrote a book in 1991, "200 years of faith: a history of st. charles parish." what i loved about that the chance i had researched the spanish archives because at that time, st. charles was a, you know -- years before the louisiana purchase it was part of the spanish empire. of course, we don't think of it that way today. but i had the chance to look through and to research the information and the spanish records of burials, marriages, and baptisms. i should not say spanish because they were written in french. that was the basis for my book about st. charles. in doing so, i found there was a little-known journal that was
really traceable back to the spanish government. in the years 1798-1801, the spanish government, spain itself was trying to increase immigration west of the mississippi, and those who would emigrate west of the mississippi were mostly non-catholic, because that was the predominant population east of the mississippi. so the spanish government for a few years relaxed the rules on marriages rather than force people who wanted to get married in their territory to convert to catholicism. they allowed them to agree that they would raise their children children catholic and a priest could marry them. otherwise, they would not be married. during these years, someone named william clark, with a great big signature like this, signed in this one register in st. charles, the marriage register, he signed william clark as a witness.
so i did not pay too much attention until one day after my book came out. a photographer from the "post-dispatch" came by to photograph something 200 years old, the only thing we could come up with like the john hancock. these attention-getting images were the signatures of william clark for this book. finally this guy looked at me , and said, is this the signature of the william clark? and i spoke truthfully. well, i don't know. [laughter] because it had concerned people who were not members of the parish, because they were non-catholic. so he said, well if it is the signature of the william clark, you missed a big story. [laughter]
i thought, well, maybe i did. i don't know. so the next thing i did was get to a library, the university of missouri library in st. louis. i looked and looked. but this was long before that was a biography of clark. the best i could do was a little information i could find about the lewis and clark expedition, both of which said nothing about what william clark was doing in 1798-1801. finally i came upon a reference to a journal in columbia, missouri. william clark's original journal, the william clark before he went on the expedition with lewis. five years before that, in the year 1798, that william clark had written about his travels. i borrowed a copy of that and i realized it is the one whose -- that the one that signed the register in st. charles was a different william clark. by the time i learned that come up i was hooked on this journal
which was the exact years i was looking for, 1798-1801, for the future explorer. it was about travel he took in those years. i will tell you a little bit about the journal itself. first off i will show you. , this is the best i can do. of course this is so valuable , and so revered that it is locked up in the state historical society of missouri in columbia. it has been there since 1928. it is really a little bit larger than -- a little bit taller, but it opens like a steno pad. william clark used it like this. he started writing down here, went over the gutter and wrote on the next page.
he started with a diary over the top and he kept ledger entries for his expenses at the back. in the middle, he drew a map of the mississippi river. i'm getting ahead of myself. but this is a photograph of clark's journal. it is marbled and it had a lot of pages he signed, probably because he knew he was going on a river trip. every other page, blots. this journal was in the state historical society since 1928. but in 1923, its surfaced from who knows where. i don't know. i can't trace it back anymore before 1923. in that year, this journal and four -- i'm sorry, three others of clark and one of meriwether lewis were sold to a collector in st. louis.
the collector's name was william clark breckenridge. no, he was not a descendent, he was not a relative of william clark. but, he knew a bargain when he saw one. because i still can't believe these prices. i am asking you to consider -- my goodness, what were they thinking? the 1798-1801 journal of william clark. bought for $.50. [crowd gasps] yeah. in that same transaction, he bought a similar size journal of william clark which he wrote in 1809 and it has information in it about his reaction when he learned that meriwether lewis had apparently committed suicide, or that he was dead. it is of inestimable value.
of course $.50 for that one. , there were two others that clark wrote when he was a superintendent of indian affairs. $.25 for each of those. [laughter] the kicker -- i'm saving the best for last -- meriwether lewis' astronomy notebook. guess how much that went for? >> a nickel. jo ann: five cents. yes, it went for a nickel. what did william clark breckenridge think? well, i think you judge them by what he paid for them. he thought the real gems of his collection were the civil war sheet music that he had collected and some scrapbooks of newspaper clippings. he did not value these five journals, four of clark and one of lewis. he was an elderly man and died a few years later. after his will had gone through probate, the state historical society bought these items.
1928, it was the year before the great depression, which led into world war ii, which led into decades of neglect because i guess there just was not enough money and interest to research them. finally, in the 1960's, the national union catalog of manuscript resources paid attention to them. it was a national publication. i think now it is online. for some reason, they misascribed the 1798 journal. it was not until a couple years ago that people paid attention to it. no one matched clark's journal entries with his ledger entries or checked other resources to find out what was going on. well, what was really going on, as the title says, dubious pursuits. dubious in the sense of -- what does this all add up to?
fraught with uncertainty is the definition, and that is the one i think is most apt here. i will break the dubious pursuits down into three. bribery, smuggling, and involvement with conspirators. highly-placed americans who were working against the interests of the united states. there are three names to remember, and i'm writing these down because they are clark's journal. they are samuel montgomery brown, who is a courier of ill-gotten gains, jed benjamin sebastian of the kentucky court of appeals, who lived not far from the clark family near louisville, and he was one of the principals in the spanish conspiracy, and the kingpin of
the spanish conspiracy with general james wilkinson, the highest-ranking officer in the u.s. army and, in the words of the man who was his commander before he died, general anthony wayne, wilkinson was from the bark to the very core, a villain. [laughter] wayne also called him the worst of all bad men. [laughter] he knew what he was dealing with. unfortunately, he did not live long enough. my information comes from clark's own words in his journal. i will call it the notebook, because that is how they refer to it in the state historical society. i have found corroboration for words in it in spanish archives. the reason i knew to look there is because i use them in my book
about st. charles, missouri. when i came up with questions, i thought, well, let's see what the spanish archives say. i was unprepared for what i found. i have a degree in spanish and -- let's see. i told you how i came upon clark's journal. just trying to spare myself embarrassment. in 1798, william clark was a 27-year-old veteran of the u.s. army. he had served in the army for four years before that. gotten out in 1796. he had stayed a lieutenant the whole time. no distinction except for serving in the battle of fallen timbers. in 1794 he was trying to help the united states get control of the territory north of the ohio river.
the main william clark prowess in the military was in logistics and a couple of secret missions to spanish territory. more about that in my book. in 1794, he wrote his younger brother -- the youngest of the brothers was william clark, edmund was the brother closest in age and i think they were close in heart, too. he wrote that he wished to get out of the army and start a business on the mississippi. he said, my wish is on the mississippi because i think there is a great opening for success there for a man with viable connections in new orleans, which was spanish territory. william's two brothers-in-law with the head of spanish passports to do commerce there.
he had their example as may be an inspiration for him, because i think every now and then they sent loads of tobacco and other products from kentucky down to spanish new orleans for sale. when people did that, when they had any transaction with new orleans, americans wanted their proceeds paid in pieces of eight. the united states back then was not able to produce its own paper or coined money. that would not come for several years afterwards. in 1798, the spanish silver dollar, the real. we call it the pieces of eight. that was the currency most in demand in the united states. finally, william clark, in 1798, gets out of the army, free at last, and he decided he would embark on this trip to spanish new orleans. he called it the small adventure of tobacco.
he bought a couple of used flat boats, patched them up, caulked them, hired seven deckhands, and they set down the river on march 7, 1798. he had the notebook. he began his diary entries right away. he wrote almost nothing about his cargo. i will get to that in just a minute. on the ohio river, things went well. he wrote in it every day, whether it was 10 words or so, with an average of 16 words as he worked down the river. things went well on the ohio. he was able to float at night. they did not have to pull over because the ohio lived up to its reputation as the best riviera. they got to mississippi and he had to pull over every night. he made rapid progress on the mississippi. he stopped at every american
fort on the way. fort messick in southern illinois. he stopped there, did a little business. he stopped -- they called it the fort at chickasaw bluff. it is now in memphis. he stopped at a fort that they called walnut hill, but is now vicksburg. he entered spanish territory at new madrid. he had to show passport. he did the same at baton rouge. finally, he got to new orleans on april 24, and he noted that in his journal. and then his entries in the diary just about stop. he would write things like -- for four days, he wrote, "huh." for 19 days, he wrote "nothing
extraordinary happened." oh wait. he is selling cargo. he is making money. ostensibly, this was a business venture. where's the information about his product? he sold a hogshead of tobacco. a hogshead was a standard container for tobacco. if you are familiar with the 55 gallon drum, they put them out on the highways, the hogshead was probably more like the height of this podium. it would hold maybe 70 or 80 gallons. they were filled with tobacco. clark said so little about his cargo. i thought, well, what was he doing? i thought, maybe i had better check the spanish archives.
at least this was about money and the spanish treasury collected taxes on what clark did. i checked the spanish archives. in the treasury record, there was one exhaustively detailed, several pages about about guillermo clark showing up on april 24, and right away he unloaded one of the flat boats. there were people with carts. he used their services and had them cart tobacco to the customhouse, where the tobacco was open, the hogshead were weighed, and tobacco was inspected. all of this information is in the spanish archives, but not in clark's journal. i thought, why? was this a business venture? my goodness. the tobacco in one treasury book having to do with export.
i checked another treasury book having to do with sales make locally. my goodness, yes. it was an equally exhaustive description of furs. clark had brought almost two tons of furs. bear skins, deer skins, otter and beaver pelts down the river, too. he made no mention in his journal about those things. i have no idea why. he also carried bacon and ham to sell. all of these things were appraised by officers in the customs house and they figured out what they were worth. it was a lowball figure they came up with because spain was trying to encourage american commerce, so they did not want to tax americans too high. they set the duty at 6%.
that came to $17. that was the duty that clark would owe. clark's notebook at that point -- he began writing, and i will review these entries that he makes. these are in his journal. he owes the royal treasury $17.30. he writes, "i gave eight pounds of bacon to the officers of the customs house." he paid four dollars to be officers of the customhouse. he gave wine to eight inspectors. he paid a total - b-r-i-b-e to inspectors. [laughter] and he repeated. $3.
it looks to me as though he was not paying his duty so much as he was bribing the officers in charge. it was a widespread practice. it was not just clark. many other individuals engaged in that because it was the way to do business at the time. as i said, i thought if this is a business trip, where our clark clark's records about doing business? i'm not sure. when it came to bribery, then i got interested in whether william clark made a connection with the business agent of his brothers in law, they had a spanish passport to do business. well clark did not write , anything of his name. this individual who was a business agent -- i hate to say it, but his name was daniel clark. it was another nonrelative of william clark. he was an irish immigrant who, with his uncle of same name, again, daniel clark, uncle and
nephew, not father and son, they had an extremely successful international trading business in new orleans and they did business with, you know, the brothers-in-law of william clark up in louisville, they did business with people in the british islands, they did business with people in europe philadelphia and on the , east coast. so daniel clark junior was a very well-versed in bribery. i think that was the secret to his success. he was also the master, too, of smuggling, of having money smuggled out of spanish new orleans. of course bribery and smuggling , were both contrary to spanish law. there were explicit laws against them. and the spanish did not want their money going back to the united states. of course, the goal of americans was to get legal tender they could use instead of ious or whatever in the united states.
daniel clark jr. was about the same age as we clark, so he was young. i think if he were alive now, he would be a billionaire. as i said he was also a , part-time clerk in the spanish government. he had a birds eye view of conspiracy going on. i think i may have alerted you -- there were quite a few and there were many americans at the time that want to get rid of spanish. he wanted them out of louisiana and west florida because they could not hold on to the empire, they were not investing the necessary money. they did not want to because there were not gold or silver mines in the southern united
states. that is what daniel clark was interested in. i thought, well, of course, william clark must have wanted to make contact with this very influential, important individual who happened to represent the business interests of his brother-in-law. william clark's tobacco had been confined by these brothers-in-law. the most magical thing in the world would have been for him to meet and come to terms with daniel clark jr. william clark knew nothing about him. there is no mention of daniel clark in this journal, the notebook. i thought maybe they didn't, until i found three letters in the missouri history museum in st. louis written by daniel clark to william after william clark left. i will read you just a passage from one, but it shows they definitely met each other and
they probably discussed a wide variety of topics. daniel clark said to william -- listen to this language -- i just can't imagine people writing business letters like this. it is so eloquent. daniel said, "our acquaintance, though but short, has deservedly placed you so high in my estimation that i should not without regret give up the idea of seeing you again and cementing it more closely." he wanted to do business with william clark. he was very impressed with the young kentuckian. well some of the things they , talked about, which daniel alludes to in this letter, the value of kentucky land that they were both interested in. the desire in eastern states, particularly maryland, baltimore, or kentucky goods. because one of daniel's letters
alludes to the prices unless the deal was with mr. usher in baltimore. he made a big reference to the obvious inability of spain to guard louisiana. daniel clark was then trying to round up americans to get together and throw the spanish out and let the united states take over. so, again, no mention of this in william clark's journal. but as i said, daniel was the past master of smuggling. as a clerk in the spanish archives -- i mean, in the spanish government with access to all the classified information that spain was producing about the spanish conspiracy, daniel clark knew that general james wilkinson of
the u.s. army was receiving vast amounts of money. thousands and thousands of dollars. pieces of eight from spain for his alleged services and helping weaken the united states and strengthen spain. so daniel clark jr. was watching him. one of his allies in his effort to unmask wilkinson, i think, was james wilkinson's most successful courier. his name was thomas power. he described the most successful type of smuggling, the modus operandi of smuggling he did. there were three elements. you had to have cargo of goods from new orleans that you could
not get in kentucky. it had to be tropical things, like coffee and sugar, you had to have the cover of a commercial mission. you had to be a grocier or something like that. you had to bring along, you had to hide the pieces of eight in the sugar and coffee barrels. if you did that and you carried along some other sugar and coffee barrels with other kinds of products, too, but the rest were things that sold in kentucky. it would look like this was just a grocery-running mission. so, that is what thomas power said. what did william clark start writing in this journal at this time? he bought himself two barrels. one of coffee, the other of sugar.
he wrote in the journal in the ledger that, in the coffee barrel, would go $245 for mr. sebastian. one of the principles in the conspiracy was judge sebastian. in the sugar barrel went $670. that was for william clark's father in louisville to pass along to someone named mr. riddle. james wilkinson was particularly fond of cover names for himself. the most famous of them was secret agent 13. [laughter] that is true. that's how spain referred to him because his correspondence was
number 13 in his files. some reason like that. for years, he signed his correspondence with spain number 13. mr. riddle was supposed to get $670, which i also found in the spanish archives that it could have been $640 that was owed for three years to james wilkinson by spain. they had not had the cash or the courier. they had to have the cash and courier at the same time to get $640 and yet been agitating. they had the cash finally when william clark was there in may of 1798. they had enough money to throw in his interest. that could have been for james wilkinson. benjamin sebastian, as i said,
one of the people, these conspirators, was in new orleans when william clark was there. he and his accomplice -- sorry. samuel montgomery brown had come down from kentucky to new orleans to introduce a new twist of the spanish conspiracy. they had come up with a new plan. they wanted $200,000 and a monopoly on the trade of new orleans. that is why they were there. at the same time, sebastian made it his business to invoice spain for his annual secret spanish salary of $2000. there is no reason to think he did not collect it. i'm sure he did because it never came up later that he had not collected it. here we have these guys getting their money and brown had a grocery store in frankfort, kentucky.
he had teh cover. he had the excuse. we have william clark buying coffee and sugar and 11 $245 for mr. sebastian, $670 for "mr. riddle" to go into it and ferry it back upstream. spanish archives show that the mission was completed according to plan. samuel montgomery brown did reach kentucky with these barrels. william clark's father, john, kept the letter of instruction from william telling his father to pass along the money to mr. riddle. he also said to keep the coffee and sugar for yourself, but the
money goes to mr. riddle. what are we to make of all of this? what are we to make of william clark? our image of him all these years has been a very uncomplicated individual. i don't think he was. by his own writing, it shows that yes, he was involved in bribery, he was involved in smuggling, money running, but there was another mission of smuggling that i won't get into that involved $1500. he had a little time to kill in new orleans before he took a ship from there up the east coast which is how you left in 1798. he wrote in the journal that he bought two horses, one to ride
and one to pack. he bought himself a pack of saddlebags and took $1500 -- maybe those were his earnings, i don't know, because he never wrote about how much money he made selling his products. he took that money by horse to the international boundary line, which was then the 31st parallel, and if you picture the map of louisiana, the part that sticks out to the east, flat on top, louisiana looks like a boot and that is the top of the boot. that is the 31st parallel. that was another smuggling mission that clark made. i think what he did was trade the money for a draft on the u.s. treasury. i found that the $1500, the draft had been honored, and i
know who handled it, a former treasury official. this information is all out there. my question again is what are we to make of all this of william clark? he was indeed involved with principles of spanish conspiracy, with sebastian and brown. he did not write james wilkinson but wilkinson had been his commanding officer and he had been a loyal partisan of wilkinson. wilkinson liked to break up the army into factions. he knew that anthony wayne did not like him. he tried to pick his officers against wayne. clark was loyal to wilkinson. does this mean that clark was involved in the spanish conspiracy? i have no proof of that. i don't know. but i think we should regard his notebook and all of the questions that arise out of it. we should regard it as proof of
his fully complex personality. this is one more fully complex i know, then we tend to think and perhaps what we would want to believe. thank you. [applause] >> if you would all come up, if you have a question if you would come up to the microphone so that we can hear you, and also to point out, at any of these conspiracies, especially the wilkinson conspiracy happened, at least half the republican candidates for president would not be citizens. [laughter] jo ann: thank you. >> anthony wayne -- was that mad anthony wayne? jo ann: sure was. >> famous for his frontal attacks?
jo ann: the hero of stony point, they called him during the revolution. yes, he was a very brave, stalwart soldier. >> he had a high casualty rate, too. [laughter] jo ann: well, he knew what was going on with wilkinson, though. >> 1786, that was the height of the spanish conspiracy, and we do know that george rogers clark, the older brother of william, was very much involved in that. you think he and william could have gotten together on that? jo ann: let me correct the date. the spanish conspiracy did not begin until 1787, when wilkinson weaseled his way down to spanish new orleans, bribing his way as he went along, and his first goal was to get a monopoly. george rogers clark. george had been so poorly
treated by the state of virginia and the u.s. government, which owed him thousands and thousands of dollars, because he had paid as a general in the virginia militia during the resolution. he was owed this money and it was not repaid. he was practically bankrupt by the 1790's. he had given up on his own country and become embittered. by 1792 he declared himself a general in the army of revolutionary france. he had a contact in france he kept in touch with. he wanted the french to overthrow spain. he knew that spain could not hold onto it longer. he knew weakness when he saw. i think daniel clark jr. wanted the same thing.
george wanted the french to come in, but daniel clark wanted the u.s. to take over. >> you do think that clark could have gotten some influence from his older brother? jo ann: i think he could have. there is one thing i did not mention. not in william clark's journal. the museum in missouri, there is a one-page entry from william clark. it is a curious thing because william clark must have compiled it. a list of 13 strategic points from the mouth of ohio to new orleans. it names the forts. it also names the spanish forts and major confluences of rivers. it is not just a list of those locations, but also a list of their coordinates.
latitude and longitude for each one of them. did william clark figure that? well, i don't know who would have in 1798. the really important thing about it is it is not listed in order of descending the river. it says at the top, in the order ascending the river. it starts with new orleans and ends with the mouth of the ohio. what good could that have been? most traders of the day were limited by the current of the mississippi. they could not fight it. very few could make their way upstream. military vessels could. was that for a military thing? i don't know, but there it is. >> could you give us an idea about what the money involved in the smuggling would be in today's money? jo ann: well, it was thousands.
$2000 that wilkinson got and sebastian did, too, per year from spain. oh, gosh. no, i don't think i can. that is silver and that would depend on the price of silver. it would be vast. they would have been very, very wealthy people. i must tell you that sebastian was found out. one of his farmhands, he had a plantation near louisville. this farmhand went down to the riverfront one day when he heard that a shipment from new orleans had come in for sebastian. they brought the wagon down from the plantation and this farmhand was later to testify that the barrel that was unloaded, whether it was sugar or coffee
or whatever, was so heavy it was so heavy it took five men to take it up. he thought it was much every that it would have been if it was just edible contents in it. he began -- and this farmhand asked sebastian's son, was there maybe some spanish money in that? and it says, "the son gave him to know that there was." yeah. >> a question about, given the commercial and geopolitical aspects of what you've discovered, the possibilities, did it make you rethink the balance of those factors about the core of discovery itself, lewis and clarke? there is a long-standing debate about what jefferson's purposes were, with the united states'
purposes were, and what lewis and clark thought they were doing in the corps of discovery. was it searching for flora and fauna? was it geological? was it simply exploring the west? were there political reasons with the british and the russians, etc.? did it make you rethink your view of what actually happened on the expedition? jo ann: yes, to an extent. but when you mentioned the expedition, i want to segue into a little note about that, too. the spanish conspiracy, the news about it, the real muckraking journalism, began to take place when lewis and clark were out west. as i said, the farmhand on sebastian's farm that relies zed there is something besides tobacco in the hogshead was one thing, but the other thing was that the u.s. attorney for kentucky at the time was named joseph hamilton daveiss.
he had studied law under george nicholas. george nicholas had died by 1800 or something. he had been involved in the spanish conspiracy by secret. in settling his estate, he came upon these documents that showed his mentor, george nicholas, had been disloyal to the united states. george nicholas was gone then, dead, i mean. daveiss reveal this information to a newspaper at the time. it was called "the western world." it was a muckraking paper. made a lot of and money.
there was a congressional investigation in kentucky. he confessed everything. he broke down in tears and said yes, it's all true. i was on the spanish payroll and i was conspiring and there was no commercial motive for all the money that he made. all of this happened -- it really got going while lewis and clarke were gone out west. when they came back september of 1806, quite deservedly they thought we should get some press now. when they got back to st. louis, both clark and lewis -- -- clark wrote his brother jonathan and asked him to publish this letter to jonathan which announced where they had been and all the marvelous things they had found and done so it would get in the newspapers. it did, but they were dismayed to find out there was a whole lot more attention about the spanish conspiracy which led
into the ehrenberg business. he was the -- into aaron burr, which was the third phase of the spanish conspiracy. i know it does not quite answer the question. >> what do you think about aaron burr and his involvement in the conspiracy? what is your conviction about his convictions? jo ann: he has come down through history as such a machiavellian individual who set this up. it was wilkinson. he kept recycling this modus operandi, having younger men implement his schemes and i think aaron burr was one of them. >> ultimately, his judgment, you quoted at the beginning, wilkinson is the greatest of villains is really the truth. jo ann: yes. i am not trying to excuse burr because i -- yeah. he was trying to sacrifice
texas, maybe, louisiana, and start his own little empire. i think that idea came from wilkinson, and wilkinson turned on burr when he realized this idea was not going to work. burr did not see it was not going to work. >> any other questions, ladies and gentlemen? thank you very much. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] >> good evening.
i am speaking to you tonight at a serious moment in our history. the cabinet is convening and the leaders are meeting with the president. the state department and army and navy officials have in with the president all afternoon. the japanese ambassador was talking to the president at the very time japan's airships were bombing our citizens in hawaii and the philippines and sinking one of our transports. by tomorrow morning, the members of congress will have a full report and be ready for action. >> eleanor roosevelt is the longest serving first lady, for an unprecedented 12 years. wasthe while, her husband physically limited by the affects of polio. her legacy continues today. she is discussed as a possible face of the $10 bill.