Revolt, Republic … then US Annexation, then Statehood … sound familiar? … How about this? Anglo-American insurrectionists sneaked into and captured the lightly defended government facility; the leading revolutionaries signed a declaration.
Shortly after, several hundred insurrectionists, assembled and declared it a “free and independent state,” adopted a constitution and formed a Republic.
The leader of the fledging Republic, in addressing the new legislature, stated, “Called by your joint and unanimous suffrages, to fill the office of chief magistrate, under the constitution adopted by the people … believing it to be the duty of every citizen at this moment implicitly to obey the call of his country.”
“Placed like you, but as to day, to carry into effect a new system of government, little more it is presumed, might be expected from me at the moment of my entering into office, than the ordinary professions of a governor, addressing the immediate representatives of the people …”
“… yet my solicitude, during these first hours of the convulsive birth of our infant republic, induces me on the present occasion, to ask something more of your attention and indulgence. …”
“We are then entitled to independence, and wherever the voice of justice and humanity can be heard, our declaration, and our just rights will be respected.”
“Our brave volunteers, conducting themselves with temperance and fortitude, like the patriotic chief who is to lead them, will teach the enemy, that Americans understanding the principles of liberty and a free government, are ever ready to sacrifice their lives in its defence; for our cause is too glorious, to be disgraced by fear or by submission.”
“The genius of Washington, the immortal founder of the liberties of America, stimulates that return, and would frown upon our cause, should we attempt to change its course.” They sought annexation to the US.
The US President proclaimed, “a crisis has at length arrived subversive of the order … whereby a failure of the United States to take the said territory into its possession may lead to events ultimately contravening the views of both parties”.
“Considering, moreover, that under these peculiar and imperative circumstances a forbearance on the part of the United States to occupy the territory in question, and thereby guard against the confusions and contingencies which threaten it, might be construed into a dereliction of their title or an insensibility to the importance of the stake …”
“… considering that in the hands of the United States it will not cease to be a subject of fair and friendly negotiation and adjustment; considering, finally, that the acts of Congress, though contemplating a present possession by a foreign authority, have contemplated also an eventual possession of the said territory by the United States, and are accordingly so framed as in that case to extend in their operation to the same”.
Then the president proclaimed, “in pursuance of these weighty and urgent considerations, have deemed it right and requisite that possession should be taken of the said territory in the name and behalf of the United States.”
Shortly thereafter, the US Senate and the House of Representatives passed a joint resolution authorizing the President to ‘occupy and hold all of the tract of country.’
In his subsequent State of the Union address, the President stated, “Among the events growing out of the state of the … Monarchy, … a situation produced exposing the country to ulterior events which might essentially affect the rights and welfare of the Union.”
This wasn’t the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands in 1898, it was a revolution by American insurrectionists, Presidential Proclamation and subsequent Congressional Act (House and Senate) annexing West Florida to the US in 1811.
In 1779-81 Spain acquired West Florida, as well as East Florida by right of conquest, confirmed by treaty of 1783. The Treaty of Paris (ending the American Revolutionary War in 1783) transferred British control of East and West Florida back to Spain.
West Florida stretched from the Mississippi River eastward to the Perdido River (the current border of the American states of Alabama and Florida,) up to the 31st parallel.
Things were peaceful until 1808, when Spain appointed Col. Charles Delassus as governor. The inefficiency and corruption of officials under him threatened the prosperity of American colonists in West Florida, who presented demands for political reform.
In the predawn fog of September 23, 1810, about 50 men, led by Revolutionary War veteran Philemon Thomas, walked in the open gate of Fort San Carlos in Baton Rouge. An additional 25 men on horseback rode through a gap in the fort’s wall.
Spanish soldiers discharged a handful of muskets before Thomas’ men let go a single volley that killed or wounded five Spaniards. The remaining soldados surrendered or fled. (Smithsonian)
The beginning of the ‘Free and Independent State of West Florida’ dates with the assembling of the convention, September 23, 1810. (Fulwar Skipwith was elected Governor.) US President James Madison issued the West Florida Proclamation on October 27, 1810.
On December 10, 1810, the Republic of West Florida’s lone star came down and the Stars and Stripes took its place. For the first time, the United States had acquired significant territory from another sovereignty without war or compensation. (Smithsonian) Texas later used the Lone Star layout for its flag.)
President Madison then sent to Congress a secret message regarding the occupation of the Floridas, in response to which Congress, in secret session, passed on January 15, 1811, a resolution which recited that:
“Taking into view the peculiar situation of Spain and of her American provinces, and considering the influence which the destiny of the territory adjoining the southern border of the United States may have upon their security, tranquility and commerce.”
“Be it Resolved, That the United States, under the peculiar circumstances of the existing crisis, cannot, without serious inquietude, see any part of the said territory pass into the hands of any foreign power …”
“… and that a due regard for their own safety compels them to provide, under certain contingencies, for the temporary occupation of the said territory; they at the same time declaring that the said territory shall, in their hands, remain subject to future negotiations.” (US State Department)
January 22, 1812, by act of Congress, Louisiana was admitted to the American Union as a State. April 14 following, an act adding that part of West Florida lying between the Pearl and Mississippi rivers to Louisiana as constituted, was approved by the President. (Chambers)
In 1828 (in which the court, in speaking of the power of Congress to establish a Territorial Government in Florida until it should become a State,) the Supreme Court declared:
“In the mean time, Florida continues to be a Territory of the United States, governed by that clause of the Constitution which empowers Congress ‘to make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States.’”
“Perhaps the power of governing a Territory belonging to the United States, which has not, by becoming a State, acquired the means of self-government, may result necessarily from the facts that it is not within the jurisdiction of any particular State, and is within the power and jurisdiction of the United States.”
“The right to govern may be the inevitable consequence of the right to acquire territory. Whichever may be the source whence the power may be derived, the possession of it is unquestionable.” (Canter Decision – Decision also cited in Dred Scot Decision)