President James Monroe Establishes the System of Governance of Florida as a U.S. Territory

An unpublished letter in which appointees must enforce “the laws for the suppression of the slave trade”

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“The ceded territory having been heretofore divided into two provinces, & Pensacola the seat of govt. of one, so distant from St. Augustine, that of the other, and separated by a wilderness, it has been found necessary to adopt a part of our arrangements to that circumstance for the present. The governor...

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President James Monroe Establishes the System of Governance of Florida as a U.S. Territory

An unpublished letter in which appointees must enforce “the laws for the suppression of the slave trade”

“The ceded territory having been heretofore divided into two provinces, & Pensacola the seat of govt. of one, so distant from St. Augustine, that of the other, and separated by a wilderness, it has been found necessary to adopt a part of our arrangements to that circumstance for the present. The governor will probably reside at the former, where there will be a secretary. At the other, as a substitute for the governor, it seemed proper to appoint another to act under, report to the governor, and take instructions from him. One judge is also appointed at each place, with separate jurisdiction, to execute our revenue laws, and the laws for the suppression of the slave trade. Mr. Worthington of this date is appointed secretary for Saint Augustine.”

 

Monroe also appoints – and tries to mollify – Richard Hackley, who had a large claim on Florida land, a claim that must be dealt with as Hackley was related to Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Mann Randolph, Governor of Virginia

In August, 1814, a British fleet entered Pensacola Bay in Spanish Florida with the consent of the Spanish government and raised the British flag over forts there. The Indians of the surrounding region were now openly desirous to make war on the Americans and the British supplied them with arms and ammunition. The streets of Pensacola were full of Indians in British uniforms marching and drilling. Jackson determined to put a stop to all this. He raised a force of 3,000 volunteers and marched against Pensacola in November 1814. After a skirmish, the Spanish governor with his escort came to meet the Americans and offered to surrender. Jackson received the surrender and marched into the city. The British, with some of their Indian allies, were glad to make their escape to the ships, and sailed away. Then Jackson left the city and headed for a rendezvous with history at New Orleans.

After they were driven from Pensacola, The British built a strong fort on the Apalachicola River and made it headquarters for arming Indians and runaway negroes to make war against the American frontier settlements in Georgia and Alabama. This continued even after the Treaty of Ghent ended the War of 1812. The fort was commanded by a negro, Garcia, and was known as the Negro Fort. After waiting a year and a half for it to be abandoned,the United States took the fort. But the attacks on the border settlements in Georgia and Alabama by the Seminoles and runaway negroes continued. As Spain seemed unable to control the Indians, Jackson was put in command for what is called the First Seminole War. On March 15, 1818, Jackson’s army entered Florida, marching down the Apalachicola River and heading into East Florida. He broke Indian resistance, and destroyed villages of Indians and their negro allies. Jackson next turned his attention to Pensacola, for he had heard that Indians hostile to the United States received arms and encouragement there. While on his way he received several messages from Don Jose Masot, the Spanish governor of West Florida, demanding that he should leave. But these messages made no difference to Jackson. On May 23 he entered Pensacola, and Masot, with his 175-man Spanish garrison, retreated to Fort Barrancas. The two sides exchanged cannon fire for a couple of days at Barrancas, and on May 28, 1818 the Spanish garrison surrendered. Jackson notified President Monroe that he had taken northern Florida; soon the entire future state would be in American hands. He then left Colonel William King as military governor of West Florida and went home. He had effectively taken portions of both East and West Floridas in less than half a year, leaving the United States in effective control.

This enabled American foreign policy to make a claim on all of the territory. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams attacked Spanish control of Florida, claiming the territory had become “a derelict open to the occupancy of every enemy, civilized or savage, of the United States, and serving no other earthly purpose than as a post of annoyance to them.” Now Florida had become a burden to Spain, which could not afford to send settlers or garrisons. Madrid therefore decided to cede the territory to the United States. On February 22, 1819, the Adams-Onis Treaty was signed in Washington, which gave all of Florida to the U.S. The Senate ratified the treaty unanimously. Spain may have wanted to use the treaty as an incentive to keep the U.S. from giving diplomatic support to the revolutionaries in South America, but in any event it did not ratify; so issue of ownership of Florida remained unresolved.By the fall of 1819, Jackson was denouncing Spain for “treachery and perfidy” and chafing at the bit to invade Florida again to put an end to the stalling. In early December 1819, Jackson received instructions from Secretary of War John C. Calhoun to bring the bulk of his troops to the Florida border preparatory to an invasion. He responded approvingly to Calhoun that day saying he was getting his forces to a state of preparedness, and discussing tactics and logistics for an invasion. In the end, President Monroe did not want to launch yet another military action in Florida without Congressional approval, and as 1820 dawned he sought to obtain it. Congress was considering the momentous MissouriCompromise, however, and did not divert itself from those considerations. Meanwhile, Spain learned of the threatened invasion and at last decided to act, ratifying the Adams-Onis Treaty in the fall of 1820, thus negating a reason to invade.

On February 19, 1821, the United States ratified the Adams-Onis Treaty that gave the U.S. ownership of Spanish Florida. On March 10 President James Monroe appointed General Andrew Jackson military governor to take possession of Florida. Monroe entrusted him the job of bringing Florida into the American fold because Jackson knew the region and would attract the confidence of those most likely to settle in the territory. In May 23, 1821, to implement the turnover of power and establish a basic governmental structure for Florida, Monroe confirmed Jackson’s appointment as governor, gave him instruction, and then made other appointments. As he wrote former President James Madison, he named two judges, a surveyor/inspector, and a customs collector, and his aide. These appointments were made in anticipation of Spain actually transferring Florida to the United States, which occurred on July 17, 1821. That day Spain’s red and gold banner was unfurled for the last time in Pensacola as the Spanish Governor of West Florida turned over political control to Jackson. The American visitors cheered as Jackson entered the Government House. It was not until March 30, 1822, however, that Congress officially established the Territory of Florida.

But there was another piece to this puzzle, one little remembered today. Richard Shippey Hackley was a Virginia merchant and diplomat. Trained in commerce from his youth, by 1800 he was working as a merchant in New York City. In 1806 Hackley married as his second wife Harriet Randolph, the sister of Thomas Mann Randolph, who was Thomas Jefferson’s son-in-law. Later that same year Jefferson appointed Hackley consul at Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain, and Hackley soon thereafter reached an agreement with Josef Yznardy, consul at nearby Cádiz, whereby Hackley would act as his vice-consul there. This agreement began to fall apart in 1813, and by 1816 Hackley was back in Sanlúcar de Barrameda.

In 1817 the king of Spain gave 11 million acres – nearly one third of Florida — to one of his courtiers, the Duke of Alagon. In need of money, the Duke sold the land about one year later to Hackley, who at the time was the U.S. consul in Cadiz, Spain. Hackley’s purchase stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic, encompassing nearly everything between the Everglades to the St. Johns River. His purchase included call or parts of 20 present-day counties, from Marion County in the north to Collier County in the south. Hackley wisely foresaw wonderful development opportunities for the land, including future settlements along the coasts and farming possibilities for the interior, including what is now Polk County, according to paperwork Hackley drew up in 1822. So 11 million acres of Florida were already owned by an American when the Spanish transfer to the U.S. took place. But when the Adams-Onis Treaty was signed, its provisions stated that all Spanish land grants made after 1802 were nullified. Hackley’s deed, in the eyes of the United States, was no longer valid. However, he could not be simply ignored, as my 1819 Mrs. Hackley’s brother Thomas M. Randolph was governor of Virginia. and there was the relationship to Jefferson to consider.

Autograph Letter Signed, as President, three pages, Washington, D.C., May 23, 1821, the very day Monroe wrote Jackson confirming his appointment and giving instructions, to Gov. Randolph, discussing appointments to set up Florida’s government, and trying to cope with the Hackley problem by suggesting to Jackson that Hackley be given the post of surveyor and inspector of the port of St. Augustine. “So numerous were the applicants for office in the Floridas, and from various parts of the union, that appointing one of the Commissioners, under the treaty for the settlement of claims, from Virginia, the only attention that I could shew to Mr. Hackley, was to appoint him surveyor and inspector of the port of St. Augustine. His salary will be small but there will be fees and emoluments incident to both trusts. In a letter to General Jackson, sent thru’ the post office dept., I have recommended him to his attention, and expressed a wish that he and his family might be accommodated in some part of the public buildings. It is also possible he may find some civil employment at the port, the duties of which duties he might discharge without injury to his other office.

“The ceded territory having been heretofore divided into two provinces, & Pensacola the seat of govt. of one, so distant from St. Augustine, that of the other, and separated by a wilderness, it has been found necessary to adopt a part of our arrangements to that circumstance for the present. The governor will probably reside at the former, where there will be a secretary. At the other, as a substitute for the governor, it seemed proper to appoint another to act under, report to the governor, and take instructions from him. One judge is also appointed at each place, with separate jurisdiction, to execute our revenue laws, and the laws for the suppression of the slave trade. Mr. Worthington of this date is appointed secretary for Saint Augustine. On the presumption that a letter to him in favor of Mr. Hackley may be useful to him, I have written the enclosed wish I will thank you to deliver it to him. A public vessel the Enterprise from New York is expected here in eight or 10 days, to take several of the officers appointed to Florida, to their posts, with dispatches to the governor. Should Mr. Hackley be disposed to sail on her, it is possible he may be accommodated. For that purpose it will be necessary that he communicate immediately either directly or through some friend with the Secretary of the Treasury, as this vessel goes on a cruise although Pensacola and the Gulf our principal objects, yet it will not materially affect her cruise to touch at Saint Augustine.” The “Debates and Proceedings of Congress” indicates that the appointment of Hackley was indeed made.

The recipient of this letter was not specifically named, and we would like to thank Daniel Preston, editor of the “Papers of James Monroe”, for his kind assistance in identifying the recipient as Randolph. He also noted that there is a letter from Randolph to Monroe, dated 1 June 1821, in which Randolph thanks Monroe for Hackley’s appointment. Also, Monroe remarked to James Madison on Hackley’s appointment in a letter to Madison of 19 May 1821.

Not content, in 1823 Hackley sent his 21-year-old son Robert to start settling the land he claimed was his own. Robert Hackley arrived that November. “The industrious young settler began at once to clear land, plant citrus and vegetables, and construct barns, sheds, a wharf, and a house,” Gene Burnett wrote in Florida’s Past. “Hackley had the first bona fide settlement not only at Tampa but on the entire mainland west coast.” But when Col. George M. Brooke arrived in Tampa Bay to establish a military outpost, the colonel thought nothing of seizing Robert Hackley’s homestead and making it the new fort. It was not until 1838 that a federal court ruled the Hackleys’ purchase was invalid. The debacle left Hackley and his heirs tied up in court battles trying to reclaim the land until 1905.

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