Archiver > SOUTHERN-UNIONIST > 2000-09 > 0969220448

From: josie bass <>
Subject: Re: Original constitution for West Florida Republic in Louisiana
Date: Sun, 17 Sep 2000 15:54:08 -0400
References: <>
In-Reply-To: <>

New stuff keeps turning up, isn't it wonderful! The Original constitution
for West Florida Republic now back in Louisiana. I had no idea, thought it
was part of the LA. Purchase. This is fascinating - Word must have gotten
around because My direct family came there from VA & NC & SC & GA & KY

>Dr. Henry Skipwith b. 1790 VA of Feliciana parish, Louisiana descended
>from Col Henry Skipwith>Sir Wm Skipwith & Elizabeth Smith>Sir Wm Skipwith
>& Sarah Peyton>Sir Grey Skipwith & Bridget>Sir Henry Skipwith (Knight) &
>Amy Kempe (dau of Sir Thomas Kempe)>Sir Wm. Skipwith d. 1610 & Margaret
>Cave. he m. cousin Margaret Scott Winter, gdau of my ggggf Nathaniel
>McCants sister, their family came from SC with my gggf David
>McCants. wonder how he is connected to Fulwar Skipwith. josie
>>Advocate staff writer
>>Advocate staff photo by Richard Alan Hannon
>>The original Constitution of the West Florida Republic, which has been
>>restored by the Louisiana State Archives, will be on display in St.
>>ST. FRANCISVILLE -- The West Florida Republic of 1810 may have been
>>short-lived, but it had its own capital, president and constitution.
>>St. Francisville was the capital of the free and independent nation, which
>>lasted for 74 days. Fulwar Skipwith was the president, and the constitution
>>has been handed down among his descendants for nearly 200 years -- until now.
>>Skipwith's 89-year-old great-granddaughter, Leila Lee Roberts, of Staten
>>Island, N.Y., donated the original copy of the West Florida Republic
>>Constitution and supporting letters and documents to the state of Louisiana.
>>The documents will be on display for several months at the West Feliciana
>>Historical Society Museum. On loan from the State Archives, the exhibit opens
>>next Sunday with a reception from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
>>"We kept the documents in a safety deposit box for as long as I can remember,
>>but I felt like it was important to have it on display so that school
>>children in Louisiana could learn about their history," said Roberts, who
>>will attend the opening of the exhibit.
>>The Republic of West Florida represented the first successful attempt to
>>overthrow Spanish control of a territory in the New World and was the first
>>democracy established in any part of Spanish territory in the Western
>>What are referred to as Louisiana's eight "Florida parishes" today once made
>>up part of West Florida, which was ruled first by the Spanish (by right of
>>discovery and exploration), then the French, the British and the Spanish
>>again before independence was declared.
>>The Florida parishes were not a part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803; they
>>remained under Spanish rule. West Florida stretched west from the Perdido
>>River in Florida to the Mississippi River in Louisiana. Everything north of
>>Lake Pontchartrain and south of the 31st parallel was part of West Florida,
>>including the tail ends of Mississippi and Alabama, part of the Florida
>>panhandle and the Louisiana parishes of East Baton Rouge, East and West
>>Feliciana, Livingston, St. Helena, Tangipahoa, St. Tammany and Washington.
>>A cotton planter who lived just north of Baton Rouge, Fulwar Skipwith was a
>>former diplomatic appointee of George Washington and a consul general of the
>>United States to France under President Thomas Jefferson. Shortly after
>>moving to Baton Rouge in 1809, he became involved in the effort to free West
>>Florida from Spanish domination.
>>General discontent with Spanish rule and Gov. Don Carlos De Lassus led
>>Skipwith and other area settlers to seek annexation to the United States
>>through insurrection.
>>On June 23, 1810, more than 500 local men, mostly planters, gathered at Egypt
>>Plantation to establish a convention of citizens of West Florida. They
>>selected John Hunter Johnson, William Barrow, John Mills and John Rhea as
>>their representatives. Additional meetings were held through the summer to
>>establish a form of government.
>>Philemon Thomas was appointed commandant of the militia and, under his
>>leadership, rebels successfully attacked the Spanish fort in Baton Rouge,
>>where the government had its headquarters, on Sept. 23, 1810. The Feliciana
>>dragoons sneaked into the fort in the early morning hours under cover of cows
>>entering for milking. The Spanish were defeated and the first "Lone Star"
>>flag, the official banner of the newly established West Florida Republic, was
>>On Sept. 26, Rhea, as presiding officer of the revolutionary congress,
>>proclaimed the declaration of independence of the "Free and Independent State
>>of West Florida," and Skipwith was elected president or governor.
>>President James Madison subsequently issued a proclamation annexing the
>>region west of the Perdido River to the United States and instructing Gov.
>>William C.C. Claiborne to incorporate the area into the Louisiana Territory.
>>The U.S. flag was raised in St. Francisville on Dec. 6 and in Baton Rouge on
>>Dec. 10, 1810, signifying the end of the republic. Claiborne proclaimed that
>>the area eastward from the Mississippi River to the Perdido River "shall
>>constitute one county to be known and called by the name of Feliciana." Both
>>Spain and Great Britain protested the annexation, to no avail.
>>In 1812, Louisiana became the 18th state, including the eight parishes that
>>had formerly been a part of the Republic of West Florida.
>>While the West Florida Republic is not mentioned in many history books,
>>Roberts said her own research on the rebellion and the role her grandfather
>>played intrigued her. She has kept the documents in a safety deposit box for
>>years, but, having no children or grandchildren to pass them on to, she
>>decided to donate them to Louisiana. She is currently working on a history of
>>Fulwar Skipwith for Prestwould III, the only family plantation still in
>>existence in Clark Country, Va.
>>"You have a street named after my great-grandfather in Baton Rouge," she
>>said. "He remained in Louisiana and built a retirement house at Mon Repos at
>>Montesano just north of Baton Rouge where he died in 1836."
>>Roberts, who still considers herself a Southerner at heart, said she is
>>looking forward to her return visit to Louisiana. She has been invited to
>>speak at the ceremony to unveil the constitution.
>>Modeled closely after the U.S. Constitution, the Constitution of the West
>>Florida Republic is 27 pages long and in fairly good condition, according to
>>State Archives conservator Doug Harrison. Also included in the act of
>>donation are several documents and letters including correspondence from Rhea
>>to Claiborne regarding the Act of Independence for West Florida.
>>Curator Amy Louviere said she got very excited when she first saw the
>>documents because one of her best friends, Patrick Tandy of St. Francisville,
>>is a descendant of John Rhea. "It made history come alive for me. When I saw
>>that letter; I squealed and jumped up and ran to the phone to call Patrick."
>>State archivist Florent Hardy Jr. said his office staff is thrilled to
>>receive the historically significant documents from Roberts and is delighted
>>by the interest and enthusiasm shown for the display in St. Francisville.
>>Hardy said he will consider Mayor Billy D'Aquilla's request to place the
>>documents on permanent loan.
>>The public is invited to view the exhibit. The reception will include a
>>formal presentation and flag-raising ceremony and a re-enactment by the West
>>Florida Republic Drum and Fife Corps from Chalmette.
>>The West Feliciana Historical Society Museum is located at 11757 Ferdinand
>>St. in St. Francisville. It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more
>>information, call 225-635-6330.
>>Sources: This article was based on interviews and research from historical
>>references including "The Story of the West Florida Rebellion" by Stanley
>>Clisby Arthur, "Louisiana: A Narrative History" by Edwin Adams Davis, "A
>>History of Louisiana" by Henry E. Chambers and newspaper archives.
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