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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9 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.

      • If you want to be technical, in Catholicism during the time period, all religious feasts were Latin. So Florida is technically, Latin. The Native Americans were the first to discover Florida, not Spain. The French were the first to make a permenant settlement. La Florida was founded by Spain. But East Florida was founded by Great Britain.

        News of the Spanish Consitution of 1812 didn’t even arrive in East Florida until much later. So, Florida’s first consitution, which is the traditional nickname of the “Patriot Consitution of 1812,” has more merit. East florida wasn’t even represented in Cadiz. West Florida had one rep, I believe and he wasn’t even living there for any significant period of time. This was due to Spain’s lingering caste system that oppressed many people and banned all religions other than Spain’s own rigid brand of Catholicism.

        One consitution was made in Florida by the people. One was made in Spain. The Spainish constitution of 1812 would be declared illegal with the return of Spain’s monarchy.

        Unlike, Spain. The the Florida Patriots and Native Floridians (The Native a republic is a nickname of the Republic of Florida/East Florida) were a mix. They were Catholics, Orthodox, Jews, and Protestants.

        Religious liberty was at the heart of the Floridian Revolution.

      • Here ya go:

        Many western nations/really almost all heirs of Rome used/still use Latin words, especially the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church (as the name suggests). The Florida Patriots also used Latin phrases (there were Latin Catholics amongst their ranks). Now, if you want to go by language (not religion), Spain isn’t even the first Romance language country to have a permenant settlement.

        It was named for a distinctly Latin Catholic religious feast (Easter is for all Christians but Spain was rigidly Catholic at the time) and it did likely correlate to blossoming flowers that Ponce De Leon probably witnessed. But Catholic does mean universal. ^_^ Spain didn’t invent that or the Latin Rite.

        To me knowledge, “pascua” is distinctly Spanish. It’s still today.

        The Latin Rite is not the Spanish Rite though. Almost all western Catholics are true “Latins,” aka “Romans” in some English speaking countries- As in Roman Catholic. But there are many more Eastern Rites too. Together they all make up the Catholic Church.

        • Typo correction:

          *to my* knowledge, “pascua” is a distinctly Spanish word. Of course, as I previously noted, Spain did not invent the Easter season.

  2. Technically there was no representation from east Florida for the Spanish constitution of 1812, only from west Florida and it was a non native because of the Spain’s rigid caste system that still has lingering effects.

    Also the Patriot Constituion, traditionally called Florida’s First a constitution, if you grew up in Florida, was ratified before news of the Spanish constitution even arrived to Florida. These are pretty undisputed facts. At any rate the return of the Spanish monarchy led to the Spanish constitution of 1812 being abolished from being “illegal.”

    One Floridian Constitution. One Spanish constitution. The Floridian consitution was ratified IN FLORIDA.

    Also, if you want to be technical, Florida comes from Latin. And East Florida was founded by Great Britain. La Florida was founded by Spain – although the French are credited with the first permenant settlement. Who discovered Florida? How about the Native Americans!!!! Just sayin’

  3. It’s also well known that George Clarke was a propagandist. He has never been trusted, especially on land deals. Literature backs this up. He taxed those he disagrees with and even stole the first American Governor’s home and gave it to the renters who never paid Director/Governor McIntosh a dime. He gave it to them because they betrayed East Florida for Spain. They were polygamists known as the Kingsley family. Polygamy because he had multiple slave wife’s. Because of this, he had no future in a free and independent East Florida. So he switched sides.

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