Florida Marks 150th Anniversary of Independence
A cause for celebration
150 years ago, in early January 1861, a special convention of delegates from around the state met in Tallahassee to consider whether Florida should leave the Union. Governor Madison Starke Perry and Governor-elect John Milton were both strong supporters of secession. For days, the issues were debated inside and outside the convention. On January 10, the delegates voted sixty-two to seven to withdraw from the confederation known as the United States of America and declared Florida to be a sovereign and independent nation. The next day, in a public ceremony on the east steps of the capitol, they signed a formal Ordinance of Secession. News of the event generally led to local celebrations. Later, the delegates adopted a new state constitution.
This simple Ordinance read as follows:
We, the people of the State of Florida in Convention assembled, do solemnly ordain, publish and declare: That the State of Florida hereby withdraws herself from the Confederacy of States existing under the name of the United States of America, and from the existing Government of said States: and that all political connection between her and the Government of said States ought to be and the same is hereby totally annulled, and said union of States dissolved: and the State of Florida is hereby declared a Sovereign and Independent Nation: and that all ordinances heretofore adopted in so far as they create or recognize said Union, are rescinded: and all laws or parts of laws in force in this State, in so far as they recognize or assent to said Union be and they are hereby repealed.
In an unpublished Declaration of Causes following her separation, the secession convention asserted that, “We have not acted in haste or in passion but with the utmost deliberation and from what we regard as immeasurable necessity.”
The convention declared, “A President has recently been elected, an obscure and illiterate man without experience in public affairs or any general reputation mainly if not exclusively on account of a settled and often proclaimed hostility to our institutions and a fixed purpose to abolish them.”
It stated further that, “The revenues of the General Government are almost entirely derived from duties on importations. It is time that the northern consumer pays his proportion of these duties, but the North as a section receiving back in the increased prices of the rival articles which it manufactures nearly or quite as much as the imposts which it pays thus in effect paying nothing or very little for the support of the government.”
Because freedom, independence and self-government have always been most coveted objects in the hearts of free men, it was, to be sure a time to leave. Shortly thereafter, Florida would accede to the companionship and protection of the Confederate States of America. In February 1861, C.S. President Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, concluded an address to the Congress with these words, “Reverently let us invoke the God of our fathers to guide and protect us in our efforts to perpetuate the principles, which, by His blessing they were able to vindicate, establish and transmit to their posterity. With the continuance of His favour ever gratefully acknowledged, we may hopefully look forward to success, to peace and to prosperity.”
Sadly, the fate of this new nation culminated not in peace and freedom, but in a great and terrible War; a war that forever left the brutal stamp of occupation by a self-seeking, increasingly intrusive federal government on our beloved Florida and the Southland.
This is indeed a special time and as the anniversary of this momentous occasion is upon us, all people of Florida are encouraged to contemplate this courageous decision to be free and rejoice in the commemoration of this historic event.
All media are challenged to prominently feature the significance of this day of independence in our history for the people of Florida to know and appreciate the courage of their forefathers’ resolution to be free.
Now, 150 years later, it may be time for the people of Florida to reflect within as to whether they should shed their shackles and reclaim their independence. If Florida is not free to leave, she isn’t free.