USA: George, we need to talk about these maps you drew.
Geo: Yea, they might be a little off here and there since, funny enough, you guys were throwing fire and cannon balls at us while I was trying to make them.
USA: No, this time we’re talking about the fact that so many are missing.
Geo: Well Spain let us keep our records with us.
In our houses.
Which you guys burned down.
USA: No excuses! All land claims are nullified!
Geo: WTF America! There were hundreds of us here…where you guys just illegally invaded…and then burned down all the places where we kept records. How the hell are we supposed to have something that you burned to ashes?
USA: Fine, we’ll approve the ones for white people.
Geo: That’s something at least.
USA: But only the ones who aren’t publicaly admitting to sexing up their slaves.
Geo: So like five guys? Is this how your country always works?
USA: Our country, our rules! Also, your slave doesn’t know her place. She keeps acting like she’s people. Fix it.
Geo: That’s my wife.
USA: No, your other slave.
Geo: Also my wife.
USA: Two black wives! YOU’RE RUINING THE SACRED MARRIAGE BONDS THIS COUNTRY WAS FOUNDED ON!
Geo: Have you met my friend Zephaniah yet? You’re going to LOVE him.
And what do you mean founded on? You guys just invaded us. I know, I was there. I’m the guy who delivered our collective thanks, but no thanks, to your offer of “liberating” us.
I really hope this behavior doesn’t become a pattern for you guys.
USA: What was that? Couldn’t hear you, I was singing the Star Spangled Banner instead of listening.
Look, it’s just un-American, you can’t go around admitting to banging your slaves, then freeing them and the children, then marrying the women. That’s just weird! And they definitely can’t inherit your property.
Geo: Well, these are our kids, we’re supposed to be responsible for them, what else would we do?
USA: You’re supposed to do it the American way: Deny everything and then sell your own children for fun and profit.
Geo: Yea, I don’t think that’s really going to work for us, lots of us kind of view selling our own children to anyone but themselves as a moral no-no.
USA: Sure you do, but how do your wives feel about that arrangement?
Geo: Are you kidding me? We have wives here who will actually force their husbands free their illegitimate slave offspring. Like I said, some of us consider it kind of morally wrong to keep your own children in bondage…no matter how they come about.
USA: But you guys still own slaves?
USA: And import new slaves from Africa?
USA: And that doesn’t seem strange to you at all?
Geo: Not really.
USA: This state’s shaping up to one really weird place.
Geo: You have no idea….
In 1810 President James “Father of the Constitution” Madison sent the Yazoo yahoo, George Mathews, to “liberate” the hell out of East Florida’s Spanish ruled population.
Form it’s inception, and even though the Spanish helped us become U.S., America has seen Florida as a threat to national security.
How big of a threat?
Well the Stono Rebellion was theorized to have been because of the sanctuary policy in Spanish Florida enacted by King Charles II of Spain. In 1693, he proclaimed that slaves escaping from the British colonies to the north would find freedom if they swore fealty to the Spanish crown and converted to Catholicism. Harriet Tubman was just as likely to lead slaves to the north as she was to lead them to the south, to Florida. And, of course, there was all the illegal slave smuggling happening at the Florida Georgia border.
Florida would end up representing the beginnings of a pattern of US geo-political behavior. The plan had long been to move a few Americans into the territories the US had their eyes on, stir up trouble and start hollerin’ about oppression. At which point team America would go all World Police. Swoop down on her fiery eagle of freedom. Liberate the hell out of some bitches! Then welcome the newly bleeding, bereaved, and bandaged (white) population with open arms…that they would then proceed to smother them with.
West Florida was pretty much fine with the whole liberation idea. East Florida; not so much. For it’s part, Spanish East Florida had been posing a problem to the US for quite some time. In the 1600’s, it was essentially a slave sanctuary…for runaways from the US at least, the slaves already here were pretty much stuck. Which was kind of ok (ok being a relative term here) since they had more rights and freedoms that their northern counterparts. Not to mention that if all else failed they could just hook up with those nice Seminoles and kick the total shit of out all the white dudes they wanted.
As with so many conflicts, only the rich dudes really cared. Despite all the chatter about liberation and patriotism, Mathews was hard pressed to find anyone who was really willing to fight against the Spanish in Fernandina…much less St. Augustine. This pretty much kept the Americans at bay. At least it did until the Spanish colonists, including my family in Fernandina, did something that seriously tweaked the noses of the Americans.
They armed blacks. And not just like a few free mulattoes, quadroons, and octoroons, they also armed the slaves. And then, you’ll never believe this, the freshly armed slaves, fought with as much vigor as if they were defending their own homeland…which they kind of were since even slaves could legally own stuff in Spanish Florida. Some of George J. F. Clarke’s sons served during this affair. And my grandmother, Susan Clarke, was born during the years of this silly little conflict.
From roughly 1807 to about 1819, the US talked out of both sides of her mouth. Adams would swear to the Spanish crown that the small bands of violent “patriots” sacking and burning the countryside were in no way affiliated with the United States…while also sending arms, men, ammo, money, etc, to support Mathews’ manufactured uprising. During all that time my grandfather held various government positions, including Surveyor General, and even Lt. Governor. He basically had to see to these jobs while also dodging whatever the Americans were throwing at them.
How committed were the people in and around Fernandina to keeping these obnoxious Americans off their land? Well, there’s the awesomeness of Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley. Anna was a former slave, and the first wife of slave trader, Zephaniah Kingsley. When the Americans kidnapped her husband and threatened him until he decided to go along with the American insurgency, Anna, at barely 20 years old, acted with a truly Floridian level of “fucks not given”.
Upon hearing about her husband’s kidnapping, she goes straight to the Spanish garrison, hands them her youngins; and then proceeds to burn down not one, but TWO of she and her husband’s most successful plantations. She did this so that the property, supplies, and anything else of use, would stay out of the hands of the American insurgents.
Unfortunately for Spanish Florida, Spain was embroiled in some other serious conflicts around the globe at this time as well. Meaning that Spain would eventually cede Florida to the Americans in exchange for the western half of the US as well as several other countries in north and south America. Things were finally settled through the Adams-Onis treaty which traded Florida for Mexico and most of the western half of what would all eventually become part of the United States.
The bad news is that, even though they were supposed to be protected by the terms of the Adams-Onis treaty in terms of property ownership and common social practices, the US had other plans.
The rest of George Clarke’s life would be spent trying to explain to the Americans that Spain didn’t follow the same surveying style as the US and the UK in plotting out land grants and purchases. Essentially, someone would say “I want this area”, then George and his survey team would trek through all the swamps, rivers, hammocks, snakes, gators, disease, etc, to map out the area the person wanted.
In the end, the plotted and surveyed areas looked like this…
Making it even harder on my grandfather, and the newly Americanized citizenry, was the fact that isolation from the Spanish homeland necessitated people keeping copies of their records with them….in the homes that were being sacked and burned by insurgents for more than a decade. This meant it was nearly impossible for anyone to prove their land claims to the people who were coveting all their land. One of the dirtiest trick they pulled was to tell my grandfather that his land surveys were invalid since they didn’t follow the prescribed American method…..in a place that wasn’t America.
The good news for Florida about this though, is the fact that the US became immediately distracted by trying to violate even more treaties in an effort to obtain all the other property they just let Spain have. Further distracted by the efforts of Indian genocide expert, and history’s biggest ass-hat, Andrew Jackson, the previously Spanish inhabitants of, now one big, Florida were pretty much left to continue their experiments in racial blending. Well, at least up until the 1840’s and 1850’s when Asshat Jackson would become president.
The above is a summarized (and mildly exaggerated) conversation between my super awesome ancestor, George J. F. Clarke, and the new US government, that he totally hated, concerning the time not long after he was forced to lower the Spanish flag for the final time, and raise the stars and stripes. From then on he (and lots of other families like his) were in constant conflict with the US over everything they did, had, and were going to do.
My grandfather ended up spending the last part of his life doing little more than writing a constant string of letters backing up claims made by formerly Spanish Floridians concerning the massive property losses they incurred during the insurgency. One case, concerning Amelia Island, wouldn’t be completely resolved until almost 100 years later.