Apr 16, 2019 - Sale 2505

Sale 2505 - Lot 97

Price Realized: $ 10,000
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Estimate: $ 5,000 - $ 7,500
(FLORIDA.) Collection of letters on the colonial administration of Spanish West Florida and East Florida. 16 manuscript documents (48 pages); various conditions, with moderate worming, heavy toning and chipping to a few letters, others with only minor wear. Vp, 1805-20

Additional Details

These letters were sent by ecclesiastic and military officials in Spanish Florida and West Florida, which included parts of modern-day Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. They extend from 1805 to 1820, the year before the United States would take possession of the entire territory. Most are addressed to the archbishop of Havana, Juan José Díaz Espada y Landa; the Floridas were under the diocese of Santiago de Cuba. Their contents reflect a colony which was disorganized, impoverished, underpop ... These letters were sent by ecclesiastic and military officials in Spanish Florida and West Florida, which included parts of modern-day Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. They extend from 1805 to 1820, the year before the United States would take possession of the entire territory. Most are addressed to the archbishop of Havana, Juan José Díaz Espada y Landa; the Floridas were under the diocese of Santiago de Cuba. Their contents reflect a colony which was disorganized, impoverished, underpopulated and understaffed--particularly West Florida. It was also constantly under attack from (and often occupied by) the United States.
Many of the letters address the struggle to replace the colony's priests and other ecclesiastics after death or, in one case, disappearance (perhaps having fled the dismal conditions). Given the sparse population, finding replacements was difficult, especially in more remote areas like Mobile (referred to as Movila), and these letters show that the replacements often did not have licenses to administer sacraments. Several of the letters reflect the pronounced poverty of the area, with one priest having claimed that there was not even a single dedicated church in Pensacola in 1818 (the capital of West Florida), as services had to be given in the houses of residents.
The letters also discuss infighting and backstabbing among West Floridian officials--reporting on the wrongdoings of colleagues or attempting to refute gossip. The United States' various depredations threw yet another wrench into this sorry state of affairs. The aftermath of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase and General Andrew Jackson's occupation of Pensacola in 1818 are chronicled in the correspondence. There was much confusion regarding how and when to evacuate the population, whether priests should stay behind and tend to parishioners until all Spanish citizens had left, and how these priests would be paid. Jackson had promised religious and ethnic tolerance towards Spaniards, but few were willing to live under the rule of the United States. Spain would eventually cede the Floridas to the United States as part of the Adams-Onís treaty in 1821. As these letters suggest, Spain found the Florida territories to be far too much trouble than they were worth. A detailed calendar of the correspondence is available upon request.