Andrew Jackson 1767-1845 A brief biography

Eviction of Indians and Taking of Florida

In the next few years, Jackson continued to serve as Major General over much of the south-east, with a salary of $2,400 a year and $1,652 in expenses. His staff lived with him, including Sam Houston, the future hero of Texas, and John Eaton (to be heard from later).

The main military activity at that time was the driving of Indians out of lands which white Americans were pouring into, or were about to pour into. Sometimes there was the justification of Indian raids and massacres; sometimes not.

One such affair, the First Seminole War, resulted in U.S. acquisition of Florida.

Spain was fighting a losing battle against revolutions in South America. Florida was mostly a vast swampland, and, being separated from the rest of the Spanish territory, it just caused a dispersal of military manpower. Added to the U.S. however, it would make borders tidier and more defensible, largely preventing, for example, the sort of north-south pincer movement the British tried in 1814.

Also the Seminole Indians straddled the Florida-Georgia border, and they could and did make crossbred raids, retreating to the other side when pursued. Another reason Spanish Florida was seen as a danger by the U.S. was that it contained a fort, inhabited by escaped slaves who, it was felt, encouraged other slaves to run away to its safety. The fort was blown up in 1816, killing 270.

In late 1817, in response to the burning of an Indian village on U.S. territory, Seminoles massacred virtually all on board a transport. (4 men out of 40 escaped, one woman out of seven was spared, and the 4 children on board were all killed).

It appears, in hindsight, that President Monroe (1817-25) somewhat expected Jackson to occupy Florida, and gave him ambiguous signals to that effect - the sort of signals that executives sometimes give their charges when they don't want to be blamed for an action.

Jackson, went into Florida with a couple of thousand men and occupied the fort at St. Marks, in the East, and the fortified town of Pensacola, the center of Spanish rule in Florida. He also had two British subjects (allies of the Indians) hanged.

The Spanish minister demanded evacuation and "suitable punishment" for Jackson. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams' reply berated the Spanish for not restraining the Indians, and included the following: "Spain must immediately [decide] either to place a force in Florida adequate at once to the protection of her territory, ... or cede to the United States a province, of which she retains nothing but the nominal possession, but which is, in fact, ... a post of annoyance to them." This in effect said "Keep the inhabitants of Florida in line, or we'll do it for you."

Behind the scenes, Secretary of War John C. CalhounSecretary of the Treasury William H. Crawford, and Representative Henry Clay of Kentucky were perturbed. Calhoun was angry over Jackson's communications with the President, bypassing him. All three men had presidential ambitions, and Jackson's popularity threatened their hopes. Adams, however, backed Jackson up.

Since Jackson was eventually sustained, he attributed it somewhat to his Secretary of War, Calhoun. Jackson had to put up with being called before Congress and berated - particularly by Henry Clay (whom Jackson was coming to hate). Four resolutions to censure Jackson failed, however.

Adams negotiated a treaty buying Florida for five million dollars, and also giving the U.S. a very wide corridor in the West to the Pacific.

Jackson then received the military governorship of Florida while it was being integrated as a U.S. territory. He did a good job, while there, of shaping new institutions compatible with integration in the U.S. He did however, as in New Orleans, use some heavy-handed tactics at times