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A History of the United States by Cecil Chesterton

Who was in command against the Seminoles


America had never been stronger. To this period belongs the acquisition of Florida from Spain, an acquisition carried through by purchase, but by a bargain rather leonine in character. It cannot, however, be said that the United States had no reasonable grievance in the matter. Spain had not been able--or said that she had not been able--to prevent the British from taking forcible possession of one of her principal ports during a war in which she was supposed to be neutral. She declared herself equally unable to prevent the Creek and Seminole Indians from taking refuge in her territory and thence raiding the American lands over the border. Monroe had a good case when he pressed on her the point that she must either maintain order in her dominions or allow others to do so. Jackson, who was in command against the Seminoles, insisted--not unreasonably--that he could not deal with them unless he was allowed to follow them across the Spanish frontier and destroy their base of operations. Permission was given him, and he used it to the full, even to the extent of occupying important towns in defiance of the edicts of their Spanish governors. Monroe's Cabinet was divided in regard to the defensibility of Jackson's acts, but these acts probably helped to persuade Spain to sell while she could still get a price. The bargain was struck: Florida became American territory, and Jackson was appointed her first governor.

But the best proof that the prestige

of America stood higher since the war of 1812 was the fact that the Power which had then been her rather contemptuous antagonist came forward to sue for her alliance. The French Revolution, which had so stirred English-speaking America, had produced an even greater effect on the Latin colonies that lay further south. Almost all the Spanish dominions revolted against the Spanish Crown, and after a short struggle successfully established their independence. Naturally, the rebels had the undivided sympathy of the United States, which was the first Power to recognize their independence. Now, however, the Holy Alliance was supreme in Europe, and had reinstated the Bourbons on the Spanish as on the French throne. It was rumoured that the rulers of the Alliance meditated the further step of re-subjugating Spain's American empire. Alexander I. of Russia was credited with being especially eager for the project, and with having offered to dispatch a Russian army from Siberia for the purpose: it was further believed that he proposed to reward himself by extending his own Alaskan dominions as far south as California. England, under Canning's leadership, had separated herself from the Holy Alliance, and had almost as much reason as the United States to dread and dislike such a scheme as the Czar was supposed to meditate. Canning sent for the American Ambassador, and suggested a joint declaration against any adventures by European powers on the American Continent. The joint declaration was declined, as seeming to commit the United States too much to one of those "entangling alliances" against which Washington had warned his fellow-countrymen; but the hint was taken.

Monroe put forth a proclamation in which he declared that America was no longer a field for European colonization, and that any attempt on the part of a European power to control the destiny of an American community would be taken as a sign of "an unfriendly disposition towards the United States."

Canning let it be understood that England backed the declaration, and that any attempt to extend the operations of the Holy Alliance to America would have to be carried out in the teeth of the combined opposition of the two great maritime powers so recently at war with each other. The plan was abandoned, and the independence of the South American Republics was successfully established.

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