In 1825, on this day Kentuckian Hero
General James Wilkinson died in Frankfort, the capital of the Independent Commonwealth that he had fought so hard to establish. He was sixty-eight years old.
General Wilkinson passes awayAnd yet the catalist of that nationhood was not the implausible Yankee myth of a shadowy Spanish Conspiracy, but rather the failure to achieve statehood under the old Articles of Confederation.
Wilkinson's contribution was to persuade Spanish Governor Esteban Rodríguez Miró to grant the exclusive rights to trade on the Mississippi River (previously, the Union had those rights but paid a hefty tariff) . Free navigation opened the door to outright independence, as it allowed Wilkinson and his supporters to argue forcefully against admittance to the Union under the new constitution.
As a result, the dream of westward expansion was checked even before General Washington took office as Union President. Ironically, under different circumstances, Washington might even have appointed Wilkinson as Commanding General of the United States Army but fate had decided that they would be peers and perhaps rivals.