For almost two decades, through the War of 1812, James Wilkinson was the senior general in the United States Army. He was also Agent 13 in the Spanish secret service at a time when Spain's empire dominated North America. Drawing from a wide breadth of primary sources and told with informed clarity, An Art of Treason chronicles Wilkinson's story while ultimately illustrating the tenuous bonds that connected the newly formed republic.
“[A] gripping biography.”—Boston Globe
“Andro Linklater combed Spanish, British, and American records to tell this complex story in fascinating . . . detail.”—Associated Press
“What makes this tautly written narrative so timely is that it reminds us that the myth of American Manifest Destiny and the virtuous inevitability of our sway over a continent is just so much hogwash . . . Author Andro Linklater makes a telling judgment about how the most powerful military figure of his day engaged for almost a quarter-century in spying for Spain while at the same time plotting with an almost unending cast of questionable characters in a series of plots to sever much of what later was known as the Louisiana Purchase from the United States, or alternatively to seize Mexico, or perhaps become president of the United States himself . . . One comes away from this meticulously researched, well-written book with an unintended reconsideration of Benedict Arnold as America's worst traitor.”—Washington Times
"A well-wrought study of far-reaching treachery in the early years of the United States.”—Kirkus Reviews
“The Scottish-born Linklater (Measuring America ) presents an intricate but accessible biography of James Wilkinson, one of the more enigmatic, controversial, and polarizing figures in early American history. Relying heavily on primary sources, especially Wilkinson's published memoirs and unpublished correspondence, Linklater reveals how and why this ambitious and talented young Continental Army general became a spy for the Spanish Empire and collaborated on a western separatist movement with Aaron Burr, whom he eventually betrayed by revealing Burr's plans. The author repeatedly compares Wilkinson's written defenses of his actions with documentary evidence of treason, convincingly arguing that Wilkinson, as described by one of his many enemies, had a 'habitual distaste for honesty' but possessed the charisma, cunning, and intelligence needed to live a double life that fooled America's first four presidents. Wilkinson frequently put America at risk by revealing military strategies and secrets to his Spanish handlers, but, as Linklater shows, his duplicity ultimately failed to deter the growth of a fragile young nation . . . This fascinating and richly detailed book is a useful resource for studying America's early struggles with internal interference and external opposition. A fine choice for undergraduates and informed lay readers.”—Library Journal
“Anyone with a taste for charming, talented, complex, troubled, duplicitous and needy historical figures will savor this book. A Revolutionary War general at age 20, James Wilkinson (1757–1825), whom few now have heard of, knew everyone of consequence in the early nation, from Washington on down. But he squandered his gifts in repeated and apparently uncontrollable double dealing, betrayals (he spied for Spain), conspiracies and dishonesty in the decades following the war. Wilkinson seemed to pop up everywhere, always trying to make a deal and feather his nest. To those ends, he would as soon turn on those whom he had pledged to help as be traitor to the army he served. The only man he remained true to was Jefferson, who in the end spurned him. No one trusted him, as no one should have. Linklater (Measuring America) skillfully captures this sociopathic rogue who, for all his defects, still commands attention from everyone trying to understand the 50 years after 1775. His charisma reaches across two centuries to perplex and fascinate any reader of this fast-paced and fully researched work.”—Publishers Weekly