Wednesday, September 29, 2010

West Florida... A Nation For 74 Days

The Southwest regions of the early republic of the United States were hotly contested between the French, English, Spanish, and settlers coming from the newly formed United States. With English and United States settlers living in the lands of Western Florida, controlled by the Spanish, their desire to rid themselves of Spanish Catholic rule grew steadily throughout the beginning years of the nineteenth century. The area of West Florida today consists of land south of the 31st parallel which is portions of Louisiana and the southern tips of Mississippi and Alabama. It was a small region which inhabited about 4,000 people in 1810. Despite attempting to negotiate with Spanish for several years over the authority and control of the territory. Seventy-five rebels overcame the Spanish garrison at Baton Rouge on September 23, 1810. Once overtaken they raised the Bonnie Blue Flag, a blue field with a single star in the center, which commemorated the birth of a new nation, West Florida.

Within a week a Declaration of Independence was drafted and eventually a Constitution, written much in the same fashion as the United States Constitution. Although claiming independence and developing a sovereign nation, it did not take long for West Florida to be annexed by the United States. On October 27, 1810, President Madison annexed portions of the West Florida territory. The governor of West Florida, Fulwar Skipwith, disputed the United States claim to the region because they refused to recognize the legitimacy of West Florida as a nation. Skipwith was so upset he claimed he was ready to "die in defense of the Long Star flag." Skipwith and the West Florida legislature eventually backed down on the issue. By December 1810, the United States had basically claimed all territory that was the nation of West Florida. This year the independence of West Florida was celebrated in Louisiana. A commemorative flag was raised in St. Tammany Parish. In addition a historical marker will be placed in the area to memorialize the short lived life of West Florida.

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