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lat time is one of the resources of he State. If we inquire from what source ‘he people of the United Kingdom have derived such vast and increasing wealth, we shall find, that it was not owing to conquests, or mines; but to the perfect safety, which they derive from their salulary laws; to the energetic industry, which is urged and rewarded by that sense of safety; to the im
mense commerce, domestic and foreign, of inspirited people: so that, from those causes originate those prodigious reproductions of opulence, which appear, at successive periods, to the astonishment of the world; and which have induced commercial writers to maintain, that the resources of such a people are inexhaustible, while fostered by circumspection.
THE FLORIDA QUESTION STATED.
BY H. M. BRACKENRIDGE.
FEw questions have produced so much discussion, as the conflicting claims of the United States and the king of Spain, to that part of Florida, which stretches from the Mississippi to the Perdido. It has been brought before the public in every possible shape; it has been the subject of debate on the floor of congress; it has been the theme of numerous newspaper essays; and has lately given rise to unpleasant recriminations, between the Spanish minister in this country, and our secretary of state. To Spain, the subject of dispute is more a matter of pride, than of interest; to the United States, however, for the most obvious reasons, it is of the greatest value: this is not mentioned, however, as entitled to weight, on either side, in the discussion. The possibility of a rupture with Spain, renders this affair particularly important at the present moment; as it will undoubtedly constitute one of the principal points of difference. The first consideration with every people, should be to act justly and honourably in all their dealings; in the end, this will always prove the truest wisdom. If we have been led into error, let us retrace our steps, and endeavour to make atonement; if right, let us persist in our course with the confidence and courage of self-approbation; but let us first examine the ground on which we stand, fairly and dispassionately. The very nature of this question, it must be admitted, presents a serious difficulty. It bears too
much resemblance to those obstinately litigated causes in courts of justice, where all the feelings and passions are enlisted, where it is almost hopeless that the parties will of themselves ever come to an agreement, and where the interposition of a judge is therefore indispensable. On either side of such cases, the most cogent reasons may be urged, but absolute demonstration, from the nature of the subject, is impossible; all that the ablest judge can do, is to weigh the arguments of the parties, with due impartiality, and then decide according to the best of his understanding. But when nations are the parties in similar questions, who shall decide between them? The most sober, and disinterested among them, and among other nations. The best mind, when swayed by passion or inte
rest, can no longer be trusted.
Perhaps, no people on earth are less entitled to decide promptly or alone, on such occasions, than we Americans; our intimate connexion with all affairs of government, almost identifies the public interests, with our private concerns. The greater, therefore, the necessity of self-distrust, and of being particularly cautious, that our opinions, where the interests of the nation are at stake, be truly the result of honest examination and not the workings of selfish feelings. If justice be our object, no case can exist, wherein this impartiality is more necessary than the Florida question. That the reader may have be
fore him, every thing that may aid his mind in coming to a satisfactory conclusion, it will be proper to state some political facts, avoiding carefully, whatever is not conceded on either side. The name of Florida, was given by Sebastian Cabot, to the whole extent of coast from North Carolina to the most northern province of New Spain; and I have seen in an old map, published before the discovery of the Mississippi, the whole of the interior, and then unexplored region, designated under that name, even to the very border of the lakes. The progressive extension of the English settlements, and those of the French on the upper and lower Mississippi, gradually lessened the extent of country called Florida, until it was at length restricted to the comparatively inconsiderable portion, now called East Florida, lying between the Perdido, and the English colony of Georgia. Dr. Postlethwayte, in his Dictionary of Commerce, publishtd about the year 1745, says, “cer“tain it is, that Louisiana contains “the greater part of those new “discovered lands, east and west “ of the Mississippi, which at first, “ had the name of Florida.” The facts stated thus far, will not be denied on either side; it is true, there exists some difference of opinion, which I will notice presently, as to the precise boundary between Spanish Florida, and Louisiana; it is however, admitted that this province in the hands of the French, did extend as far at least, as the Mobile river, although beyond it, the boundary was undefined. The first permanent establishment in this part of Florida, was made by the Spaniards, who built the fort of Pensacola, a few years prior to thc settlement of Iberville, Vol. I.
at the river Dauphin, near the Mo
bile. The whole country, was at first claimed by the Spaniards, as its discoverers, while the French also claimed, on the ground of having, a number of years before, made some fruitless attempts to
settle it. The jealousies which at .
first prevailed, in a short time, gave way to mutual good understanding, and acquiescence in the establishments of each other. They were even in the habit of reciprocating kind offices, and for at least fifteen years, no dispute took place between them. The settlements of the French, were at this time, principally at the Isle of Dauphin, on the Mobile, and at the old Beloxi, near the mouth of the river Perdido. The war, which broke out between the parent states, put an end to this friendly intercourse. According to Charlevoix, in the year 1719, the river Perdido, situated about half way between the Mobile, and Pensacola, was selected as the place of rendezvous, for the white troops and Indian auxiliaries, destined to make an attack on the Spanish fort of Pensacola. The two infant colonies, had been separated by the Perdido, which formed by tacit consent the boundary, and at which a small French post had generally been kept up. Pensacola was taken, retaken by the Spaniards, taken a second time by the French, but according to the author before cited, was restored to the original owners, by the treaty of 172 I. Whether the Perdido was fixed upou as the boundary at, this period, by some express stipulation, is not known; certain it is, that it is marked as such, both in maps published by England and France, long before the year 1762. The manuscript of a French officer, named Bernard De La Harf, which contains the history of LouiR
siana from its settlement, for the first twenty-five years, and which was discovered some years ago at Natchitoches, expressly speaks of the Perdido as the boundary between the French and Spanish provinces,—between Florida and Louisiana. This matter is, however, of less importance, as it is admitted, that the French were in possession of the Mobile as a part of Louisiana; and as to the sandy coast towards the Perdido, it is scarcely worth a contention. For the first thirty years, after the settlement of Louisiana, by Iberville, there was, scarcely any establishment on the Mississippi; the colony of Louisiana was principally to be found, in the neighbourhood of the Mobile. We now pass over a period of nearly half a century, without meeting any occurrence, which is any way material to the discussion. By the unfortunate war commenced about the year 1756, France was despoiled of nearly all her American colonies; she first lost Canada, and laid the ground work of a subsequent war, which led to the loss of all her possessions on the continent of America. Until the year 1761, Spain had kept aloof from the disputes between England and France: at this period, the celebrated family compact was entered into, by which, all those of the house of Bourbon, agreed to defend each other's possessions in whatsoever part of the world they might be situated. The scheme originated with the French minister, the duke de Choiseul, with whom, it had been for some time, a favourite idea. The greatest possible intimacy and friendship, existed at this moment, between the Spanish and French monarchs. The effect of this alliance, was to engage Spain in a war with Eng
land, and which turned out most ruinous to her. The Havana, the key to her American possessions, fell into the hands of the English. France, so far from being able to afford relief to her ally, was, at this moment, in a most deplorable condition; she had neither money nor men, and was a complete bankrupt in credit; her West India possessions were at the mercy of the enemy, and the whole of Louisiana, should the war be prolonged, would fall an easy prey to the forces in the British colonies. In this situation, the English minister was able to dictate to her, the peace of a conqueror. The attitude of her affairs in Europe, was, besides, such as to render her distant and expensive colonies, in America, of little consequence. Negotiations for peace were entered into, and the preliminaries signed by France, Spain, and England, at Fontainbleau on the 3d of November, 1762, and ratified at London on the 10th of February, 1763. In this treaty, (which we shall call the treaty of '63) we find these two important articles, relating to the present subject, which we shall here transcribe. Article 7th. “In order to establish peace, on solid and durable foundations, and to remove for ever all subject of dispute with regard to the British and French territories on the continent of America; it is agreed, that for the future the confines between the dominions of his Britannic majesty, and those of his most Christian majesty, (king of France) in that part of the world, shall be irrevocably fixed, by a line drawn along the middle of the river of the Mississippi, from its source to the river Iberville, and from thence, by a line drawn along the middle of this river, and the lakes Maurepas and Ponchartrain, to the sea; and for this purpose, the most Christian king, cedes in full right, and guarantees to his Britannic majesty, the river and port of Mobile, and every thing which he possesses, or ought to possess, on the left side of the river Mississippi, except the town of Orleans, and the island on which it is situated.”
Article 20. “His Catholic majesty, cedes and guarantees in full right to his Britannic majesty, Florida, with fort St. Augustin, and the bay of Pensacola, as well as all that Spain possesses, on the continent of North America, to the east, or to the south east of the river Mississippi, and in general, every thing that depends on the said countries, and lands, with the sovereignty, property, possession and rights, acquired by treaties or otherwise, which the Catholic king and crown of Spain, have had till now, over the said countries, lands, places and their inhabitants, so that the Catholic king cedes and makes over the whole, to the said king and crown of Great Britain.”
Thus it appears, that Louisiana was first divided by France, into two parts, making the middle of the Mississippi the line of separation, as far as the Iberville, and through the lakes, &c. The section lying on the left bank of the river, including what is now the Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and West Florida, she gave to England, reserving to herself the island of Orleans, and western bank of the Mississippi. It is impossible for any countries to have a boundary more simple, and better defined, than that which separated these two sections. There was no survey, or calculation requisite, to ascertain this line, since it was so distinctly marked by the hand ef nature.
The grant on the part of Florida, (East Florida,) that is Pensacola and St. Augustin, and their dependencies, was made in consideration of the restoration of the Havana, and was so expressed; but it is presumable, that the cession of the immense tract of fine country, by France, conjointly with Spain, was taken into consideration; for it will not be pretended, that the barren soil of East Florida, was any thing like an equivalent to the Havana. It was only by thus joining the portion of Louisiana ceded by France, extending to the banks of the Mississippi, and rounding her territory in North America, by natural boundaries, that England, then dictating a treaty, would be content.
But Spain had suffered considerably from this war, into which she had been drawn, in the interruption of her commerce, the occupation of Havana, the loss of property captured there, and finally by the sacrifice of Florida. France, desirous of making amends for these losses, offered to cede the colony of Louisiana, which to Spain, would be of immense value, from its connection with New Spain, and from the covering which it would afford, for the provinces in that quarter. To France, the colony at that moment, was not of great value, since the best part of it was about to be ceded to England. It is said, however, that on the part of Spain, the acceptance of this offer, was at first, generously declined, and not acceded to, until after it had been reiterated.” By a secret treaty, executed on the same day, with the preliminaries of peace, (3d Nov. 1762,) but which has never been published,
* Histoire General de la diplomatie Francaise, vol. 6, page 473.