James Monroe by Gary Hart

James Monroe by Gary Hart

Author:Gary Hart
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Published: 2012-05-23T16:00:00+00:00

that Jackson took Pensacola only because the Governor threatened to drive him out of the province by force if he did not withdraw; that Jackson was only executing his orders when he received this threat; that he could not withdraw his troops from the province consistently with his orders; and that his only alternative was to prevent the execution of the threat.13

Adams’s vigorous defense of Jackson might have been more persuasive if Jackson, perhaps unbeknownst to Adams, had not been advocating driving the Spanish out of Florida for years. Indeed, six months before the cabinet debate Jackson had written Monroe directly and confidentially that East Florida should be seized by the United States and that “this can be done without implicating the government. Let it be signified to me through any channel, and in sixty days it will be accomplished.” The very prospect of this conquest seemed to cause the Hero to lick his military chops. Reporting directly to President Monroe after this desired mission was accomplished in West Florida as well as East Florida, he wrote: “I have established peace and safety, and hope the government will never yield it, should my acts meet your approbation, it will be a source of great consolation to me, should it be disapproved, I will have this consolation, that I exercised my best exertions and judgment and that sound national policy will dictate holding possession as long as we are a republick.”14 One can almost hear the music of “Old Soldiers Never Die,” evoked by an army general of similar character returning from controversial conduct in Korea in the 1950s. Or perhaps Jackson’s words are more reminiscent of General George S. Patton. Jackson was essentially saying, “Take it or leave it. It’s all the same to me. If you don’t like what I did, too bad.”

Monroe acted in the matter like a man handed an attractively wrapped present that was ticking loudly. He wrote to Madison that he had three objectives he wished to achieve: to preserve the Constitution (and the congressional prerogative of making war); to eliminate any excuse Spain and its allies might have to declare war on the United States; and, finally, to find a way to turn the entire affair to the advantage of the United States. He addressed the first two by revising a note Adams meant to send to Luis de Onis, the Spanish minister to the United States, mildly repudiating Jackson’s conduct, while trying to explain it in the best light for Jackson, and offering to return the facilities at Pensacola to Spain. To Jackson, Monroe sought to put the best light on a diplomatic nightmare: “The events which have occurred in both the Floridas show the incompetence of Spain to maintain her authority; and the progress of the revolutions in South America will require all her forces there. There is much reason to presume that this act [taking Pensacola] will furnish a strong inducement to Spain to cede the territory, provided we do not wound too deeply her pride by holding it.


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