Tuesday, May 11, 2010
After the Napoleonic wars, Spain lost control of most of the American colonies. They revolted and declared independence. Rebels used American ports to equip privateers to attack Spanish ships, a practice defended by Henry Clay, who severely criticized both Monroe and Adams for their more cautious wait-and-see policy. The Floridas, still Spanish territory but with no Spanish presence to speak of, became a refuge for runaway slaves and Indian raiders. Spain was not in charge. Monroe sent in General Andrew Jackson who pushed the Seminole Indians south, executed two British merchants who were supplying weapons, deposed one governor and named another, and left an American garrison in occupation. Jackson thought he had Washington's approval, but the orders were vague. President Monroe and all his cabinet, except Adams, believed Jackson had exceeded his instructions. Secretary of War John C. Calhoun proposed to punish Jackson. Adams argued that since Spain had proved incapable of policing her territories, the United States was obliged to act in self-defense. Adams so ably justified Jackson's conduct as to silence protests either from Spain or Britain. Congress debated the question, with Clay as the leading opponent of Jackson, but it would not disapprove of what Jackson had done. Adams negotiated the "Transcontinental Treaty" with Spain in 1819 that turned Florida over to the U.S. and resolved border issues regarding the Louisiana Purchase. The treaty recognized Spanish control of Texas (a claim taken up by Mexico when it declared independence of Spain).