THE PLOT TO STEAL FLORIDA
=========================
(*The Plot To  Steal  Florida*  by  Joseph Burkholder Smith.  New
York: Arbor House, 1983. ISBN: 0-87795-477-1)

In the purchase of the  Louisiana  Territory,  then-Secretary  of
State  James Madison and his assistant, James Monroe, connived in
making the eastern boundaries  of that territory uncertain.  They
were plotting to eventually use the pretext of unclear boundaries
as part of the justification for seizing "the Floridas."

Like  with   later   U.S.   covert   operations   (such   as  the
Spanish-American War, such as the overthrow of  Salvador  Allende
in  Chile,  such  as  the Bay of Pigs fiasco, such as the Gulf of
Tonkin incident, such as the Persian Gulf War), a similar pattern
occurred during President James  Madison's Florida intrigues:  "a
preliminary propaganda phase --  working  up  excitement  in  and
about the target -- then the organizing of a 'patriot government'
opposed  to  the  group  we  wished  to get rid of, then an armed
attack by the 'patriots'  on  the nearest legitimate authority...
then an appeal to the United States government to assume  control
and  restore  'order,'  a call which the United States government
usually answered."  From the Florida plot, to the Bay of Pigs and
beyond, the basic technique has remained the same.

James Madison, married to the extravagant Dolley Madison (she, 17
years his junior), was as opposite  to his wife as night and day.
A taciturn, morose man, James  Madison  may  have  been  sexually
impotent,  suggests  author  Joseph Burkholder Smith in his book,
*The Plot To Steal  Florida*.   Dolley Madison, according to some
indications, may have had  a  history  of  sexual  indiscretions.
Madison  and  his cronies also liked their liquor, often drinking
to excess.   He  also  suffered  from  hemorrhoids  and was often
accused of "living on laudanum" (an opium derivative).

According  to  James  Madison, the Floridas would sooner or later
belong to  the  U.S.  "because  their  position  and the MANIFEST
COURSE OF EVENTS guarantees an early and  reasonable  acquisition
of them."  (Emphasis added.)  This concept of "manifest course of
events"  later,  in  subsequent  administrations, became known as
"Manifest Destiny."

Instead of a direct  invasion  of  the Floridas, which would have
caused diplomatic problems, Madison  decided  on  a  more  subtle
approach.   He  sent  secret  agents to the Floridas to stir up a
"patriotic movement."  These  agents  offered bribes, principally
promises of land, to Americans already living in the region.  The
"patriots" were to declare independence from Spain  and  "request
support and assistance from the United States."

Chief among the secret  agents  sent  by  Madison  was  the  aged
Revolutionary  War  general, George Mathews.  General Mathews, "a
short old man who spoke with  an Irish brogue... and who insisted
on wearing one of the three-cornered hats that everyone wore when
George Washington was president," was assigned the task of spying
on the Spanish government in the area and assessing  the  chances
for the planned coup d'etat. 

In   December   of   1810,   "West   Florida,"  an  area  roughly
corresponding to the Florida  panhandle, was successfully annexed
into the United States, as part of the Territory of Orleans.  But
"East Florida," the large peninsula jutting out into the  oceans,
could  not  be  so  easily  claimed  as  already  included in the
Louisiana Purchase.  Ponce  de  Leon  had established the Spanish
claim to the area in 1521, and large cattle  ranches  thrived  in
East   Florida.    By   1810,  East  Florida  enjoyed  increasing
prosperity and this led to its  being coveted by persons north of
its border. 

On January 15, 1811,  Congress  passed  an  Act  "to  enable  the
President  of  the United States, under certain contingencies, to
take possession of  [East  Florida],  and  =for other purposes.="
(Emphasis added) "Those last three little words,"  writes  Smith,
"were  fateful.   They  gave  Madison  blank-check  authority for
covert action."  Those last few  words, "and for other purposes,"
bring to mind the National Security Act of 1947 which established
the Central Intelligence Agency [CIA].  The  CIA  was  originally
meant to function only as a central clearinghouse of intelligence
already  provided  to  it  by  other  agencies.  Yet the 1947 Act
establishing CIA also, incidentally  and  in passing, allowed CIA
to "perform such services of common  concern...  and  such  other
functions... as the NSC [National Security Council] may from time
to time direct."  Those last little, "incidental," words, both in
the 1811 Act and the 1947 Act, opened up a pandora's box.

General Mathews circulated amongst U.S. citizens  already  owning
property  in  East Florida, and especially recruited his "patriot
army" from settlers  in  southern  Georgia.   In return for their
assistance, offers of free land were given.   Mathews  sought  to
stir  up  a  "rebellion" as pretext for U.S. troops coming in and
"restoring order."  But British spies  by  now were aware of what
was going on.  British  minister  to  Washington  William  Wyllys
wrote  a  stern  letter  to  James  Monroe, charging secret agent
Mathews with "corresponding with  traitors, and... endeavoring by
bribery and  every  act  of  seduction  to  infuse  a  spirit  of
rebellion  into  the  subjects  of the King of Spain."  Since the
British were allied with Spain  against  the French, they did not
look kindly on U.S. attempts to grab  East  Florida.   Understand
too that Spain was a hugely Catholic country and that the Vatican
must  have  had  some interest in the affair.  (British spies and
Catholic spies later swarmed throughout  the south, just prior to
the American Civil War.)

In East Florida lived a large colony of  escaped  slaves.   These
escaped slaves worked as tenant farmers for the Seminole Indians,
who  also  resided  in  the  region.   If East Florida were to be
annexed by the United  States,  both  the  escaped slaves and the
Seminoles feared what would come next. 

The upshot is that the  "spontaneous  rebellion"  and  consequent
hopes  of  seizing East Florida for the U.S. were thwarted.  Part
of what derailed the plot  was  the  arrival  of The War of 1812,
during which  British  troops  burned  Washington,  D.C.  to  the
ground.   President Madison had other worries on his mind, so the
grab of East  Florida  was  put  aside.   Another  factor was the
resistance put up by escaped black slaves and  Seminole  Indians:
"Bowlegs," half-brother of Chief Payne, went on the warpath.  The
Spanish Governor helped instigate the Indian uprising by claiming
he  was unable to deliver his usual gifts to the Seminoles due to
"the disruption of the Indian  trade" caused by "white invaders."
Bands of Indian and  black  warriors  began  killing  the  "white
invaders."   Fearing  for  the  safety  of  their  families,  the
"patriot  army"  shouldered  their  muskets  and  headed north to
protect their homes.

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