New on Florida Memory: The Patriot Constitution of 1812

In March 1812, a group of Georgia settlers known as the Patriot Army, with de facto support from the United States government, invaded Spanish East Florida. The Patriots hoped to convince the inhabitants of the province to join their cause and proclaim independence from Spain. Once independence was achieved, the Patriots planned to transfer control of the territory to the United States.

The Patriots seized Fernandina without firing a shot, but could not convince the government at St. Augustine to surrender. By July 1812, the “invasion” had reached a stalemate, with the Patriots encamped at Fort Mose, and the Spanish government firmly in control of St. Augustine and Castillo de San Marcos. Over the ensuing several months, the Patriots fought a series of skirmishes against the Spanish and their Seminole and black allies. The most significant fighting took place when the Patriots attempted to penetrate the strongholds of the Seminoles and their African-American allies near the Alachua Prairie.

page one of the Patriot Constitution of 1812

The Patriots eventually lost their tenuous support from the U.S. government and abandoned the Florida project in early 1813. During their time in control of Fernandina, the Patriots formed a temporary government and drafted a constitution to govern their territory. That document is transcribed and available on the Florida Memory website, along with other miscellaneous items related to the short-lived Republic of East Florida.

The original Patriot Constitution and associated documents reside in the collections of the Florida Historical Society (FHS) in Cocoa. The FHS lent the original documents to the State Archives in 2013 for digitization.

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2 thoughts on “New on Florida Memory: The Patriot Constitution of 1812

  1. “March 1812, a group of Georgia settlers known as the Patriot Army, with de facto support from the United States government, invaded Spanish East Florida.”

    Floridians participated too. Georgians aided their Floridians brethren in their Revolution. At this time, only Americans referenced themselves as Floridians (or Native Floridians).

    Floridians also referred to their Republic as the Republic of Florida, although as the final draft of the constitution points out… it was later rephrased to the “Territory of East Florida” following US pressure to control both Floridas (West Florida was already “bought” from France, haha according to the US, even though it was also an independent republic that fought against Spain [not France]).

    It is interesting that we now refer to it as the Patriot Constitution. I always learned it in school as simply the First Constitution of Florida. Certainly, the Floridians and Georgians who participated in the movement were known to some as Patriots/the patriot movement.

    • No, Spain discovered and colonised this peninsula that them named ”Florida” it’s a Spanish word meaning ”flowery ” and their inhabitans were called Floridianos (Floridians) were mostly Spaniards/Novospaniards (peninsulares,criollos,mestizos,black and hispanized indians), few French, Irish and some British, not Americans. They did not want to be part of USA (And Indians and Black hated the USA. East Florida Governor George Clarke expelled the invaders. Only newcomers immigrants from Georgia wanted to make disturbance. Florida’s First Constitution The central square of St. Augustine, Florida, the Plaza de la Constitución, is not named for the United States Constitution. Instead, its name comes from Florida’s first constitution, the Spanish Constitution of Cádiz of 1812. Daily political life in Florida’s Spanish colonial cities was governed by this document, and cities like St. Augustine ordered their activities around the requirements, rights, and duties expressed in this constitution. The Constitution of Cádiz was the first truly transatlantic constitution because it applied to the entire Spanish empire, of which St. Augustine and Pensacola were just a part.

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