1805. Thomas Jefferson is about to begin a second term, but with a new Vice President. Aaron Burr, dropped from Jefferson's ticket, is a bitter and resentful man bent on revenge. In Boston, Jean Marie Macleod, a middle-aged lawyer, is a worried man. His young and beautiful wife, Marie, seems restless and dissatisfied. Macleod decides to seek advice from a friend in New York and, while there, meets an old acquaintance, Sebastian Francisco de Miranda, South American freedom fighter, Russian secret agent and adventurer.
This chance meeting sweeps Macleod into a dark and dangerous world of espionage and violence. His young wife, Marie, sets out to discover what has happened to her husband, also falls in with old friends and is sucked into the terrifying vortex. A Union Not Blessed is a story of treason and betrayal by those who founded America and were appointed its guardians, the men who had become the enemy within.James Green is well known as the author of the Jimmy Costello crime series, the first of which, Bad Catholics, was short-listed for the 2009 Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards. He is married and lives in Nottinghamshire.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
‘Treason, sir. An ugly word and a dangerous one.’
‘Would you prefer me to dissemble, sir, an outright lie perhaps?’
Anthony Merry, Envoy Extraordinary to the United States of His Britannic Majesty, King George III, shifted uneasily in his chair. His blunt companion was Aaron Burr, lately Vice President to Thomas Jefferson.
Merry sat back and tried to look at his ease.
‘Let it be called treason then, Mr Burr, as it will be your neck in the noose if you fail.’
The room in which they sat was liberally supplied with comfortable chairs and writing desks, the walls lined with books and the high ceiling decorated with ornate plaster-work. The venue had been well chosen by Burr, their presence in such a place would arouse no particular comment nor any surprise, and the time of day gave them the room to themselves. If two men of consequence happened to cross paths while in Philadelphia, what more natural than that they should meet and talk and if both were of a philosophical turn of mind then what better place than the home of the Philosophical Society?
‘Come, sir, an answer if you please. Will London support me?’
‘My dear Mr Burr, you are a person intimately familiar with the workings of governments so you of all people must know that I cannot give you any such assurance.’
‘Mr Merry, today I am no more than a private citizen. But as you say, I do indeed know intimately how governments work, so my question to you again is, will the British support me?’
‘Do you ask me as Envoy from the Court of St. James or do you ask it, keeping in mind where we are meeting, as a philosophical question?’
‘I ask it as a blunt question and expect an equally blunt answer.’
‘Oh dear, American directness. Tell me, Mr Burr, why are bad manners considered a virtue in this country of yours?’
‘Take care, sir. Envoy or no I’ll not sit and be insulted by you or anyone else.’
‘But my dear sir, I do not refer to you. My comment was drawn from my experiences of your illustrious President Mr Jefferson.’
‘To hell with Jefferson and to hell with your experiences. Answer my question or bid me good day.’
‘Well then. If, and I stress the if, His Majesty’s Government decided to offer you some support for your venture what would you expect?’
‘Three frigates and as many support craft as necessary to hold open New Orleans.’
‘No forces on the ground?’
‘No. The troops needed are already arranged.’
‘Indeed! You have a private army somewhere?’
Burr ignored the question.
‘And five hundred thousand dollars.’
‘You say the sum lightly, sir, as if it were mere small change.’
‘So it is to the British Crown.’
‘No, sir. It is a great deal of money, a very great deal.’
‘A pittance to get the Louisiana Territories. Two years ago Jefferson paid almost four million dollars to the French for them. Or don’t you think they are worth it? I dare say I could go to the Spanish if your war with Napoleon has so emptied your treasury.’
Envoy Merry edged towards an answer.
‘And if I was to recommend the support of your venture, what assurances could you give me that our money and ships will be a sound investment?’
Aaron Burr gave Merry a somewhat pitying smile.
‘Your father was a successful London wine merchant, was he not? I therefore presume you are a person intimately familiar with the workings of business so you must know that I cannot give you any such assurance. Or do you, keeping in mind where we are, ask the question merely as a philosophical speculation?’
Anthony Merry, justly rebuked, returned the smile.
Aaron Burr leaned forward.
‘Merry, you do not know me well, but you know me well enough to understand that I do not waste my own time nor that of others. I can deliver the Louisiana Territories. The military resources are already available to carry it out. What I need is money and sufficient sea power to ensure that America cannot blockade the mouth of the Mississippi. That is all I will tell you at this time. Now, sir, there are other people I must see and places I must go. You agreed to come here to Philadelphia to this meeting so I assume you take my offer seriously. Well then, will the British support me?’
Anthony Merry felt uncomfortable. This man, lawyer, soldier, politician, co-founder of the American nation and until so very recently Vice President, was a formidable man, a serious man. And he would not be put off any longer. Merry doubted very much whether he would go to the Spanish, but he might, he just might. The Louisiana Territories were vast and opening up rapidly. Merry couldn’t even begin to calculate their economic potential. But in Burr’s ambitious venture he saw something far more important than commercial gain; he saw the possibility of recovering Britain’s lost colonies. Added to which he had a strong personal reason to support the venture, his intense loathing of President Thomas Jefferson. Ever since Merry had arrived in Washington Jefferson had been at pains to insult and belittle Britain through him.
‘And if I recommended support, Mr Burr, what exactly are you offering?’
‘I can take the Territories but I couldn’t hold them, not without naval support and more troops. When I become master of the Louisiana Territories …’
‘And, of course, take a suitable title. King perhaps? Emperor?’
Aaron Burr ignored Merry’s facetious question.
‘When I will control the Territories I am prepared to allow Britain to station troops there and give full facilities to the Royal Navy in New Orleans. I will also grant full and free passage for British trade on the Mississippi River. That would give King George a highway to ship goods from Lower Canada through the Territories all the way to the Caribbean.’
‘You would trust us that far?’
‘No, not trust. As you said, I am intimately familiar with the workings of governments and from my recent experience at the hands of my own government I would say that my days of trusting anyone, anyone at all, are well behind me. I have been a soldier, sir, you have not. I understand warfare. Believe me when I tell you that this thing is done in all but name, if your government supports me.’
And Anthony Merry found that he did indeed believe him and, although he could never like the man, decided he would recommend to London that they support him in his venture to become master of the Louisiana Territories. Merry’s only regret was that by the time the thing was done Thomas Jefferson might have served out his second term and would no longer be President when British troops were once again garrisoned on American soil and the Union Flag flew from His Majesty’s warships in the mouth of the Mississippi.
‘Well then, Mr Burr, I will make my recommendation and if London accepts it you will have your ships and your money. But the decision rests with London. All I can do is recommend.’
Aaron Burr stood up.
‘I ask no more. Good day, sir.’
And without offering his hand he turned and left