MONROE, James (1758-1831), President. Autograph letter signed ("James Monroe") as President, TO GENERAL ANDREW JACKSON, Military Governor of Florida, Washington, 31 December 1821. 1 full page, 4to (9¾ x 7 5/8 in.), integral leaf with docket, slight mat-burn.
MONROE ACCEPTS JACKSON'S RESIGNATION AS FLORIDA GOVERNOR, PRAISING HIS "INTEGRITY, ABILITY & EMINENTLY USEFUL SERVICES"
A historically significant letter in which President Monroe accepts Jackson's resignation after his brief, eventful and highly controversial eleven-week term as Military Governor of Florida. While commanding the U.S. garrison along the border with Spanish Florida, Jackson faced seemingly insoluble problems with the Seminole Indians, who raided American settlements then fled to the safety of Spanish-held territory. Monroe and Jackson had been on respectful, friendly terms since the War of 1812, and when Monroe became president, Jackson expected to be accorded "a free hand to deal with military problems in the south" (R. Remini, Andrew Jackson, p. 116). He carried out an unsanctioned invasion of Spanish Florida in early 1817 and captured and later executed two British citizens, igniting a diplomatic crisis in Anglo-American relations. Congress debated but failed to pass a motion of censure, and when Florida finally passed to American control under the terms of the Adams-Onis Treaty, Monroe appointed Jackson Governor of the new territory.
But Jackson created new controversy by arresting the former Spanish Governor after he refused to turn over certain documents. Spain, naturally, protested, and a local Federal judge questioned Jackson's authority. Tired of the imbroglio and Jackson decided the best course was to resign as Governor: "He hated every moment of his term...he had enough sense to realize that if he did not quit this thankless job and return to Tennessee before winter, he might be carried home in a pine box" (Remini, p. 417). Jackson's November 13 letter, which justified his resignation by referring to the poor health of his wife, was hand-delivered to Monroe in Washington.
Here, Monroe accepts Old Hickory's resignation: "I received sometime since your resignation, & should have answer'd it sooner, had I not wished to retain you in the service of your country, untill a temporary government should be organized over the Floridas and an opportunity be afforded me to appoint your successor. On great consideration, especially as I know that it is your fixed purpose to withdraw, I have at length determined to accept it, in which light you will view this letter. The same sentiments which I have heretofore entertain'd, of your integrity, ability & eminently useful services are still cherished towards you. That you may long live in health, & in the affections of your country, is my most earnest desire."
Monroe, to whom the General had become somewhat of an embarassment, "was understandably angered that Jackson's thoughtlessness had once again involved the United States in difficulties with Spain" (H. Ammon, James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity, p.503), and was secretly relieved at Jackson's decision to step down.