on-line book icon

table of contents


From Contemporary Narratives and Letters
NPS logo


Spain had been no open friend of the colonies during the American Revolution, but at the end of that conflict, as an ally of France she participated in peace negotiations which brought Florida hack to her place in the Spanish Empire (1783).

The border difficulties that ensued between Florida and the southern States were but a continuation of the old strife, and, to an extent, the unrest and intrigue of the period are reflected in the following letter of Florida's Acting Governor to the Governor of Cuba. The conspirator Duarte and the French captain were seized and placed in strict confinement on June 17, 1795, just 24 hours before the day set for their coup.


This declaration which was taken from the captain of the privateer which was shipwrecked on this coast & of which I have informed you in an official letter of last May 8, No. 4, stated that after having armed Port Po, & having a patent from that Governor, he came to Savannah, & that in the publick offices of the state of Georgia an account of this privateer was taken & of its legitimate expedition. He offered to present documents which would accredit this truth & a copy of the patent which he had not been able to save from the shipwreck, since he had asked his consul in Charleston for one. In the first boat which came from Savannah, there came inscribed to the governor, the documents which this captain expected from that place, which I had translated and added to the arrangements, & seeing that they agree point for point with what he said in his declaration, it seemed suitable to me, now convinced that he was a legitimate privateer, to give him some distinction, taking him from the prison in which he was with the others, assigning to him as a prison, the courtyard of the fortress, & as bedroom a corner of the Barracks of the troop; but with a written order to the official not to permit him to leave the fortress, nor to go up on its ramparts.

Thus he remained from the 26th of last May until the 17th of this month when I reduced him to strict confinement, without communication because of having been informed by three grenadiers of the battalion in my charge (they are those who mount guard in this fortress) that Santiago Duarte, also a grenadier sentenced by you to serve in this body for eight years, had solicited them to rise & seize the fortress in which plan he was in agreement with this French captain & had meditated on the matter in order to be able to direct it successfully.

The plan of the accursed man which plan was contracted & agreed upon with the French captain, as the three grenadiers who denounced it said, was to win six or eight grenadiers & have all the conspirators go on guard in one day, although it meant changing with others; & at midnight for five of them to cover the sentinels & he who was at the arms to pass them through the grating which the prisoners' dungeon has for light & air. This being done they were to throw themselves on the officer, to take the keys from him and kill him, to open the dungeon & on the prisoners coming out armed, to knife the grenadiers who did not embrace their party Possessed in this manner of the fortress, they would take a [field] forge up to the ramparts, fire [i. e., heat] [cannon] balls, [to] blow up the powder magazine & burn the barracks. The Frenchman also expected some followers which he has in the town & forming a united body they planned to establish themselves firmly in the fortress in order to seize the province, if the outcome corresponds with their desires, & if not, since being master of the castle, they were also of the two boats which at that season were in the port, they would have them approach the fortress, embark in them, & go to Charleston with the necessary provisions, & all the money which they supposed was in the King's coffers, kept in that fortress, in which opinion they were mistaken and were disappointed because the treasurer has the small amount which remains in a private chest in his home, for daily expenses.

Trial has been started against Duarte, that he may be judged in a Council of War & his statement has been taken in which he denies all that is said in the denunciation. The trial is continued actively but it is a long and prolix case & since a copy of it should remain here, perhaps it will not be able to go now.

The m any Frenchmen who are in the battalion in my charge & in the companies of light infantry, together with my reasons for distrust of many new settlers, who are strongly addicted to the republican government & the rumors of invasion which increase each day, keep me full of worry, & increase my vigilance. There are already two privateers in Santa Maria [Sr. Mary's River] & another has been in sight of this bar for four days, forcing its boats to break with it. From all this information you can deduce what your long experience & wide knowledge dictates. I only manifest to you that the state of this province is critical & if the funds which are sent do not come in one of the king's boats or one which is well armed, it will be a miracle if they are not taken by the enemy.

I have proposed to you in my former official letters that these prisoners be exchanged for the fusileers which came from Philadelphia. This I desire now with greater reason, because it is not well for them to be here & if the attack which they meditated is, in your opinion, an obstacle to the exchange, I implore you to arrange for their transfer to that town in a boat which will carry them safely.

May God preserve you for many years.

Saint Augustine, Florida
    June 27, 1795

Your Ex.

To: His Excellency Don Luis de las Casas

Letter of Governor Morales to the Governor of Cuba, June 27, 1795.


top of page

History  |   Links to the Past  |   National Park Service  |   Search  |   Contact

Last Modified: Thurs, Sep 11 2003 10:00:00 pm PST

ParkNet Home