Слике страница
PDF
ePub

On his return from this expedition, Nolan learned that his distrust of Gayoso was justified. Clark, in New Orleans, who remained a good friend of Nolan's, notwithstanding his rancor against Wilkinson, learned through confidential relations with the Spanish officials that Gayoso had written to the Governor of Mexico to watch Nolan and all foreigners going to Mexico to foment troubles with the Indians, adding most treacherously the poisonous venom of a Spanish mind, that Nolan was a hypocrite and sacriligious, pretending to be a Catholic among Spaniards, but laughing at them when among Americans; that he had been raised and educated by Wilkinson, who had commended him to reconnoitre the country and make friendly offers to the Indians to induce them to rebel against the Spanish government. The thing, as Clark says, would have been effected to Gayoso's wish, and Nolan might, probably, have been confined for life on suspicion, but fortunately the Governor of Texas died a few days before the letter reached San Antonio, the capital of his government, and the Governor pro tempore refrained from opening the letters directed to the late Governor, and during the interval Nolan was treated as usual and only learned of the circumstance when preparing to go to the frontier again to bring in a small drove of horses still remaining there.

Here the narrative must take in the following interesting letters, found by historical researches in the voluminous records of the American State Papers. The first is from Thomas Jefferson to Philip Nolan, Philadelphia, June 2nd, 1798. (Concerning Philip Nolan. (Historical Association Quarterly, page 308):

“SIR—It was some time since I have understood that there are large herds of horses in a wild state in the country west of the Mississippi, and have been desirous of obtaining details of their history in that State. Mr. Brown, Senator from Kentucky, informs me it would be in your power to give me interesting information on the subject, and encourages me to ask it. The circumstances of the Old World have, beyond its records of history, been such as admitted not that animal to exist in a state of nature, the condition of America is rapidly advancing to the same. The present then is probably the only moment in the age of the world, and the herds above mentioned, the only subjects of which we can avail ourselves to obtain what has never yet been recorded and never can be again in all probability. I will add that your information is the sole reliance as far as I can at present see, for obtaining this desideratum. You will render to natural

[ocr errors]

history, therefore, a very acceptable service if you will enable our Phil. Soc. to add so interesting a chapter to the history of the animal. I need not specify to you the particular facts asked for, as your knowledge of the animal in his domesticated, as well as his wild state, will naturally have led your attention to those particulars in manners, habits and laws of his existence, which are peculiar to his wild state. I wish you not to be anxious about the form of your information; the exactness of the substance alone is material; and after giving me in a first letter all the facts you possess, you could be so good in subsequent occasions to furnish such others, in addition, as you may acquire from time to time. Your communications will always be thankfully received. If addressed to me at Monticello and put into any postoffice of Kentucky or Tennessee, they will reach me speedily and safely and will be considered as obligations. As ever, “Your most obedient and humble servant,

"THOMAS JEFFERSON.” Answered by Daniel Clark:

“NEW ORLEANS, 12th February, 1799. To Thomas Jefferson, Esq.:

SIR—You will pardon the liberty I take in addressing you when I inform you that your letter of the 24th of June, last year, directed to Mr. Philip Nolan (with whom for many years I have been connected in the strictest friendship) has, in his absence, come into my possession. That extraordinary and enterprising man is now, and has been for some years past, employed in the countries bordering on the kingdom of New Mexico, either in catching or pursuing horses, and is looked for on the banks of the Mississippi at the fall of the waters with a thousand head, which he will in all probability drive into the United States. Having direction from him to peruse all letters addressed to him previous to their being forwarded, that in case of accident no expression contained in them should awaken the jealousy of the suspicious people among whom he has by a coincidence of fortunate circumstances introduced himself. I have by this means acquired a knowledge of the object of your researches, and shall feel particular pleasure in affording my mite of assistance to forward your letter in safety to him. You judge right in supposing him to be the only person capable of fulfilling your views; as no person possessed of his talents has ever visited that country to unite information with projects of utility. Shortly after his return, but not before on account of the impossibility of applying himself during his travels with that attention he could wish to the subject, I will be responsible for his giving you every information he has collected, and it will require all the good opinion you may have been led to entertain of his veracity not to have

Havings will win at the falles and 1 100

your belief staggered with the accounts you may receive of the numbers and habits of the horses of that country and the people who live in that neighborhood, whose customs and ideas are as different from ours as those of the horses of Grand Tartary. Did it not interfere with your other occupations, I would presume to request you would point out particular subjects on which my friend should enlarge, as some which would be probably interesting to you might be overlooked or seem too trivial to him to notice from having come so often under his observation. In this case, your letter addressed to the care of Mr. Coxe, of Philadelphia, to be forwarded to me will shortly get to Nolan's hands; and I take the liberty of referring you to Mr. Coxe for a knowledge of my character that you may not be under the apprehension concerning the person to whom you wrote. Mr. Ellicott, the Commissioner on the part of the United States, for running the line of demarcation with Spain, being now visitor in my house and having at his arrival in this country been acquainted with Nolan, who gave him considerable information on the subject in question, I have hinted to him your wish of acquiring some knowledge and he will doubtless consider himself happy in contributing as far as lies in his power to this end until Nolan himself can have an opportunity of giving you perfect satisfaction. In the meantime I must suggest to you the necessity of keeping to yourself for the present all the information that may be forwarded to you, as the slightest hint would point out the channel from whence it flowed and might probably be attended with the most fatal consequences to a man who will at all times have it in his power to render important services to the United States, and whom nature seems to have formed for enterprises which would deprive the world of this extraordinary character. His papers, which are confided to me and a mutual friend now in the Spanish service, shall be carefully examined, and everything relating to that country shail be forwarded to you with such other remarks as both of us from our own knowledge and information have acquired. The desire I have that you should be possessed of every information and the certainty that the philosopher and politician will excuse the freedom of the persons interesting themselves in procuring such as may be useful, emboldens me to mention Mr. William Dunbar, a citizen of Natchez, in the Mississippi Territory, as a person worthy of being consulted by you on subjects relating to this country, its productions or any philosophical questions connected with them. He was for some time employed by the Spanish Government as their astronomer, on the line of demarcation, but has retired to his estate, and for science, probity and general information is the first character in this part of the world. His long residence in this country, still little known to men of letters, its situation

in whose reputahey will, I hope,rade, which

with respect to many savage tribes, some of which lately inhabited the place where he resides and where their vestiges are still perceptible; the extensive communication with remote parts presented by the Mississippi and concourse of Indians and traders, have given him many opportunities of making observations which may not have presented themselves to others, and may not probably occur in future. To these may be added those he has made on the country itself, its population, manners, customs of the inhabitants, the different changes in their government for the last forty years, the climate, soil and trade, which are but little known abroad; and they will, I hope, appear so important to a person whose reputation is so great as yours as to procure me your indulgence for the liberty I have taken. I have the honor to remain with sentiments of the greatest respect and esteem, sir, your most obedient and most humble servant,

“DANIEL CLARK, JR." And in this connection we find in the American State Papers the following testimonial from General Wlkinson to Thomas Jefferson:

“FORT ADAMS, May 220, 1800. “In the bearer of this letter, Mr. P. Nolan, you will behold the Mexican traveler, a specimen whose discoveries I had the honor to submit to you in the winter of 1707. Mr. Nolan's subsequent excursions have been more exhaustive and his observations more accurate...... An acquaintance of many years, from his youth, authorizes me vouchsafe for Mr. Nolan's probity and recommend him to your kindness.”

But, naturally, Mrs. Minor did not know of all this, the findings many years afterwards of diligent historical researches; but she could tell what the historical searchers never lighted on, for all their diligence, the romance in the life of the hardy adventurer who came to Natchez, as we have seen, armed cap à pié, to conquer love and fortune in that period of conquest of fortune by hardy, brave adventurers. As the little song describes it in four short lines:

“It is an old, old story,

And yet 'tis always new;
And ever when it comes to pass

There breaks a heart in two." As it comes down to us in family tradition, Nolan going into the highest official and business circles found also the doors of society flung open before him; even the reserved, conservative society of Natchez; and thus he met and fell in love with the beautiful and charming daughter of William Lintot, Fannie Lintot, whose sister was married to Don Estevan Minor, the most prominent as well as the richest citizen of the place, and the most important man in the colony after Gayoso de Lemos. It was not surprising that Nolan should fall in love with her; many, in fact, all the young men of Natchez fell in love with her; for she was the recognized belle of Natchez, and to be a belle is to be sought after by the beaux. But she, whose heart had been so cold and inaccessible to others, fell also in love with Nolan. In that day of romance this meant more than it does to-day, the day of common sense.

Her family opposed her choice, very naturally. The daughter of Lintot and sister of the austere and haughty Stephen Minor to marry the protégé of Wilkinson, already under suspicion of disloyalty, and a horse trader to boot (for thus did Nolan's business appear to them in its naked truth). The thing was impossible! as Nolan was told without circumlocution when he made his demand of Lintot, the father; and Nolan, not to be outdone in presenting the naked truth, asked sneeringly: “How many Texas ponies Lintot wanted for his daughter?” The rupture was complete between all but the two most vitally concerned.

If love be said to laugh at locksmiths, it is because the woman laughs at them. And, Fannie Lintot not only flouted parental objections, but soon made it apparent to all Natchez that she laughed at any family interference with the choice of her heart. Instead of obeying the parental decree, she and Nolan saw one another as often as they chose; and although her own home was closed to him, every friend's house in Natchez was open, and they were showered with opportunities for meeting. The flouted family were beaten out, and for fear of the disgrace of an elopement, consented to the union they could not prevent; and the two lovers were made happy by the only proper ending for the course of true love. One little note from Nolan remains attached to the old, old story:

My Dearest Friend:

“I intended to visit you yesterday, but your father did not give me the most distant invitation. I lament that love and friendship should suffer so much through his caprice, prudence

« ПретходнаНастави »