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Atlantic Loyalties

Americans in Spanish West Florida, 1785-1810

Andrew McMichael

Publication Year: 2008

Integrating social, cultural, economic, and political history, this is a study of the factors that grounded—or swayed—the loyalties of non-Spaniards living under Spanish rule on the southern frontier. In particular, Andrew McMichael looks at the colonial Spanish administration’s attitude toward resident Americans. The Spanish borderlands systems of slavery and land ownership, McMichael shows, used an efficient system of land distribution and government patronage that engendered loyalty and withstood a series of conflicts that tested, but did not shatter, residents’ allegiance. McMichael focuses on the Baton Rouge district of Spanish West Florida from 1785 through 1810, analyzing why resident Anglo-Americans, who had maintained a high degree of loyalty to the Spanish Crown through 1809, rebelled in 1810.

The book contextualizes the 1810 rebellion, and by extension the southern frontier, within the broader Atlantic World, showing how both local factors as well as events in Europe affected lives in the Spanish borderlands. Breaking with traditional scholarship, McMichael examines contests over land and slaves as a determinant of loyalty. He draws on Spanish, French, and Anglo records to challenge scholarship that asserts a particularly “American” loyalty on the frontier whereby Anglo-American residents in West Florida, as disaffected subjects of the Spanish Crown, patiently abided until they could overthrow an alien system. Rather, it was political, social, and cultural conflicts—not nationalist ideology—that disrupted networks by which economic prosperity was gained and thus loyalty retained.

Published by: University of Georgia Press


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Contents [Includes cover, copyright and title pages]

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List of Maps, Tables, and Figures

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p. ix


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. 1-9

In August 1804, a gang of men led by three brothers named Kemper rode from the United States territory of Mississippi into Spanish-held West Florida. They carried a blue and white striped flag and a proclamation of independence demanding that the people of Spanish West Florida rise up against Spain and declare independence. ...

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ONE. Settling the West Florida Frontier: Land, Wealth, and Loyalty

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pp. 10-34

In September 1787 Carlos Benito Grangé and Margarita Angela Dubois entered into a marriage contract, uniting themselves and their possessions in the eyes of God and the Spanish Crown (the two also, after a fashion, married).1 ...

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TWO. Working the West Florida Frontier: Slavery and the Accumulation of Wealth

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pp. 35-53

As Anglo-Americans and British expatriates moved into Spanish territory between 1785 and 1806, they encountered and helped modify a unique system of slavery in an area of foreign laws, social mores, and political culture. The Siete Partidas—the foundation of Spain’s slave law—gave rise to a system of slavery that recognized many more freedoms for slaves and allowed for the...

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THREE. Owning the West Florida Frontier: The International Microcosm of the Louisiana Purchase

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pp. 54-75

An unanticipated problem manifested itself for Americans living in Spanish Louisiana and West Florida when in 1800 the bulk of Spanish holdings in the area reverted to French control. Within three years that territory would become part of the United States, fueling an expansionist drive that would transform the lives of frontier settlers. ...

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FOUR. Strains on the System I: Filibustering

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pp. 76-101

The Louisiana Purchase brought confusion and disorder to both the new U.S. territories and Spanish West Florida for the next several years. As rumors swirled regarding the disposition of each area, some locals attempted to take matters into their own hands, forcing the United States into action. Others took advantage of the confusion to pursue criminal agendas. ...

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FIVE. Strains on the System II: Slavery and the Law

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pp. 102-126

By 1806 no serious extension of the slave rebellions that rocked the Caribbean and Virginia had landed on the shores of Spanish West Florida, though rumors frequently circulated in New Orleans. It must have been with no small sense of dread, then, that George de Passau, acting in his role as alcalde, began an investigation into an attempted poisoning. ...

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SIX. Testing the Bounds of Loyalty: Property and Crime

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pp. 127-148

The period up through 1807 presented West Floridians with a series of concrete events that could have tested their loyalty to the Spanish Empire. Filibustering and the potential for slave revolt linked them to the broader U.S. South and the circum-Caribbean in ways that might not seem either positive or profitable. ...

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SEVEN. Breaking the Bonds: The End of Spanish Rule in West Florida

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pp. 149-168

Internal events in the Baton Rouge district, including crime, a restriction in land distribution policies, and fluctuating land prices, contributed to growing instability from 1805 to 1810. At the same time, political, social, and economic ties kept West Florida bound to the United States (from which many migrants had come), to the various colonies in the circum-Caribbean (to which...

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pp. 169-175

Though a full treatment of the events that ultimately brought the Baton Rouge district and the whole of the Florida peninsula under the control of the United States is beyond the scope of this work, these events do require some attention. After independence members of the convention and militias loyal to that body set out to disarm Spanish loyalists and members of the pro-British...


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pp. 177-210


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pp. 211-222


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pp. 223-226

E-ISBN-13: 9780820336503
E-ISBN-10: 0820336505
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820330044
Print-ISBN-10: 0820330043

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 13 tables, 2 maps, 2 figures
Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 593295511
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Atlantic Loyalties

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • West Florida -- History.
  • Baton Rouge (La.) -- History.
  • British Americans -- West Florida -- History.
  • British Americans -- West Florida -- Ethnic identity.
  • Frontier and pioneer life -- West Florida.
  • Allegiance -- West Florida -- History.
  • West Florida -- Ethnic relations.
  • Florida -- History -- Spanish colony, 1784-1821.
  • Spain -- Colonies -- Administration -- History -- 18th century.
  • Spain -- Colonies -- Administration -- History -- 19th century.
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