College of Political Knowledge
Subject: Early American History
Today is the 202th anniversary of the Free & Independent Republic Of West Florida
We have all heard of the “Lone Star” state, aka Texas, a point that will be disputed later……..we hear about the pride that Texans have about their independence and their spirit of history……all that is good but there is another group that needs to been given these characteristics…unfortunately the area I refer to has done little to embrace their history….other than some damn silly notion about the Confederacy. There is more that they need to know and more that they need to teach about their history……..
The history of West Florida is a tale of deception and intrigue. The territory changed hands frequently, passing from France to Great Britain and then to Spain. Spain hoped to encourage settlement in West Florida and offered huge grants of land to immigrants. West Florida soon became home to an eclectic mix of settlers and scoundrels. Colonists who had opposed the American Revolution found sanctuary in West Florida. So did American land speculators, criminals and army deserters.
Although the population was largely Anglo-American, West Florida remained loyal to Spain. In 1804, the inhabitants of West Florida had helped to quell an uprising instigated by three American brothers.
From America’s Historical Newspapers (Click image to read full article)
In 1808, however, Napoleon Bonaparte deposed King Ferdinand VII of Spain and placed his brother Joseph on the throne. Colonists had no loyalty to Bonaparte.
On July 25, 1810, a group of West Florida settlers organized a convention to discuss their grievances with the Spanish government and work for reform.
Although the governor of Florida had sanctioned the convention, he refused to implement any of the suggested reforms.
From America’s Historical Newspapers (Click image to read full article)
In the early morning hours of September 23, 1810, a group of armed settlers led by Philemon Thomas attacked the Spanish fort at Baton Rouge. After a brief skirmish, the attackers took control of the fort. Three days later, the Republic of West Florida declared its independence.
The declaration perfectly suited President James Madison. Madison, like his predecessor Thomas Jefferson, had long hoped to acquire West Florida for the United States. Madison believed that West Florida, as a former French possession, belonged to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
The following is a short historical perspective written by Ann Gilbert for Inside Northside Magazine………….
Spain vigorously denied this claim, and attempts by the United States to purchase West Florida failed. On October 27, 1810, Madison issued a proclamation annexing West Florida. He ordered troops into West Florida, ostensibly to keep it from falling into the hands of Great Britain. The United States military fully occupied the territory on December 10. Spain and its ally Great Britain were too occupied with war in Europe to contest the American action.
For seven long years, social chaos, crime and political unrest continued in West Florida. Then on June 23, 1810, some 500 inhabitants of Feliciana, all Spanish subjects, gathered at Egypt Plantation. Newspaper reporter Stanley C. Arthur wrote in his 1935 book, “The Story of the West Florida Rebellion,” that there were only 11 dissenting votes on the decision to assume self-government.
The group elected representatives, and, with the rest of West Florida, they determined that “Spanish officers then governing the territory would be empowered to continue in office, provided they would submit to the new authority of the people.”
The rebels knew they faced the hangman’s noose or incarceration at Morro Castle in Havana, Cuba, if accused of treason, suggests Arthur. President James Madison’s papers reveal that several planters wrote to plead with him to take West Florida – or else the French or the British would return.
One figure of importance at that time was Judge Fulwar Skipwith, an American who served in France as consul general under Jefferson. He and his wife, a Flemish countess, settled in Spanish West Florida. He was named president of the new nation. Arthur says Skipwith supported the West Florida declaration of independence because “this was the best way to turn the captured province over to the United States.”
Philemon Thomas was appointed brigadier general of the West Florida troops. Governor William Claiborne would call him the “ajax of the revolution.” When the representatives gathered in July, a proposed constitution written by Skipwith was accepted. The delegates pledged loyalty to Spain’s king and governor, but also drew up a list of grievances. When they learned that the local Spanish governor had called in troops, they authorized Thomas to attack Fort San Carlos as the first step in declaring the independent Republic of West Florida.
The fort was located where the Pentagon Barracks are today, in the shadow of the state capitol building in Baton Rouge. Hyde says the insurrectionists learned there was a gap in the cypress palisades for the garrison’s dairy herd to go out to pasture. “Under cover of early morning darkness and fog, the 75 rebels caught 28 sleeping Spanish soldiers literally with their pants off and quickly forced their surrender after a fight that left two dead and five wounded,” according to a current exhibit on West Florida at SLU.
The rebels lowered the Spanish banner and raised the flag of the Republic of West Florida, a single white star on a blue background. It was Sept. 23, 1810. On Sept. 26, the convention met and declared West Florida a free and independent state.
From America’s Historical Newspapers (Click image to open)
Three days after West Florida completed the formation of its national government, the United States suddenly acted. On October 27, 1810, President James Madison issued a proclamation claiming the territory for the United States. This was done without the approval of Congress or through negotiation with either the Republic or Spain and its legality was the subject of serious question.
Madison’s actions were very controversial. He had sent military forces into the territory of a friendly nation without the consent of Congress. This was technically an act of war.
Many suspected that Madison had encouraged the revolution in West Florida. The fact that West Florida’s president Fulwar Skipwith had been American diplomat to France and political ally of both Jefferson and Madison seemed to indicate this was the case. In 1811, the western part of West Florida was attached to the Territory of Orleans, which became the State of Louisiana in 1812. The eastern sections became part of present day Mississippi and Alabama.
Short history above reprinted from Readex Blog……….written by Benjamin Hunt…….
The people of South Mississippi, Alabama counties of Baldwin and Mobile and the Florida Parishes of Louisiana should be proud of the fact that they were a separate nation apart from the US….and that they were the ORIGINAL “Lone Star” state….(sorry Texas….you were about 25 years too late)……….although the first Texas flag was called the Culpepper flag which was a blue field with a single yellow star….BTW Culpepper was part of the revolt in West Florida but moved West…….and it was the first flag flown in the Confederacy.
The area known as Republic of West Florida was illegally given to the Mississippi Territory by an illegal act of an American president that overstepped his authority!
Please make NO mistake…I am NOT some nationalistic secessionist….for the RWF did NOT secede! It was born out of rebellion not over some issue that could not be resolved other than their freedom from foreign domination and that included the US….so to liken this to some lame secessionist movement is moronic, yes I said moronic!
The area will always be the Free & Independent Republic of West Florida. And I live within its borders.