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For the US Government, Illegal Land Grabs Started Early

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illegal land grabs, US governmentBy the time the illustrious James Madison, our fourth president, left office, the policy of illegal land grabs was a legitimate method for expanding the reach of the American empire in North America. Some may not be aware that the Louisiana Purchase orchestrated by Thomas Jefferson did not come without a land squabble or two. While Spain still held dominion over what is now the state of Florida, the United States claimed that the land east of the Mississippi River, all the way to the Perdido River (essentially today’s Florida panhandle plus lower Alabama, lower Mississippi, and parts of southern Louisiana) was part of the purchase.

Spain, a strong ally of America said the area was most certainly not part of the purchase and remained the property of the Spanish government. But the problem lay in the fact that the Gulf Coast region was being populated at the time, the early 1800’s, by a loose collection of pirates, pioneers, con men, and free spirits disgruntled with the extent of the puritan ethic in the northeast. This disputed territory was the Old West on an ocean breeze.

Prior to Madison, Thomas Jefferson wrote that he anticipated the region would fall into American hands eventually through actions of its own inhabitants, but when a group of rowdy Floridians decided to push the matter, the West Florida Rebellion came to pass. In late October of 1810, the revolutionaries took over from the small and uninspired number of Spanish troops, created a constitution modeled on the United States Constitution, and declared themselves the Republic of West Florida, a designation that lasted all of 74 days, until President Madison decided to choose the course of an illegal land grab, despite his “consitutional qualms.” He directed the governors’ of the Orleans Territory and the Mississippi Territory to take control of the new republic. On December 10, 1810, the Republic of West Florida took up residency in the dustbin of history and the stars and stripes were raised.

Illegal land grab – successful!

Madison went before Congress in his second State of the Union address with a single paragraph justification for his actions, mainly consisting of some mumbo jumbo about how he acted to prevent the land from falling into a third party’s hands, particularly Britain, whom it was written had a “propensity to fish in troubled waters.” He suggested the revolutionaries might be due compensation for their efforts but left that up to Congress to decide.

The amazing thing about this footnote to US history is that by the fourth presidency, very early in the game, the government had already established a willingness to subvert legality and employ underhanded means to take land they wanted. Long live the Republic of West Florida!

The Holistic Survival Team


Flickr / cliff1066


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