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REPORTS, ORDERS, AND DECREES,
Relating to Lands in the Two Floridas.
Report of the Ministers, to the Intendant of the Army.—There is no evidence whatever in the office of which we have charge, by the which the object of the above royal order can be accomplished, but some will perhaps be found in the archives of the secretary of the sub-delegations of both Floridas, although, as to what relates to West Florida, we are informed that the surveyor general, Captain Don Vincente Sebastian Pintado, who made a register of the donations made from the year 1806, will be able to furnish the statement wished for. Your lordship will be pleased to take the proper steps. Havana, 8th of August, 1822. Alone by consequence of the occupation of the treasurer.
AYALA. DECREE. Havana, 26th of August, 1822. Let the captain, Don Vincente Sebastian Pintado, report with due detail all that he knows on the subject of this record, in order to accomplish with the greatest exactitude what his majesty requires in the royal order above.
Report of the Surveyor General.—The superintendent and general provisory subdelegate, in consequence of what your lordship has pleased to direct in the above decree, in reference to the disposition of the royal order of the 29th of April, of this year, of which a certified copy precedes, and to what the general ministers of this principal treasury have reported on the 8th of August last, I shall state to your lordship, that, as surveyor general of West Florida, by appointment of the 13th December, 1805, and royal decision of the 9th of May, 1806, communicated through the department of finances, to which office I was raised by the withdrawal of Captain Don Carlos Trudeau, who filled it, for I was then acting as his deputy in this province, by formal appointment of that government, from the 1st of May, 1796, I am able to give to your lordship a detailed account, not only of the concessions and sales of lands and lots made in West Florida, of which it was my duty to form the records, when going through my hands in order to perform the attributions of my office, but likewise of those granted in time of my aforesaid predecessor, from the notes which he had taken, making an exception, however, in both cases, for the loss of many records and other documents, which took place in the several commotions and invasions suffered by that province; and for the loss of several papers by the two great fires of the city of New Orleans, which took place, one in the evening of the 21st of March, 1788, and the other on the 8th of December, 1794; but perhaps a work of such great extension will not be necessary, if attention be paid to this, that the royal order seems to relate only to donations of lands made in this province, of which there is evidence in this intendency, upon which report depends their acknowledgment by the United States; and upon this subject it seems proper to me to make to your lordship the following observations: First. That, by a royal determination of the 24th of August, 1770, the prerogative of distributing and conceding any species of royal lands was given to the military and political government of the province of Louisiana, and it continued in possession of that prerogative until it was reversed by a royal order, given in San Lorenzo on the 22d of October, 1798; and as these general governors were likewise governors of West Florida, since it had been conquered by the Spanish arms upon the British, and their possession had been confirmed by the fifth article of the definitive treaty of peace, signed in Versailles on the 3d of September, 1783, they made a great many concessions of lands in both provinces, as long as they had that power, with a perfect independence from the intendency of this island; and for these reasons I do not see that evidence of them are to be found in it.
Second. By the aforesaid royal order, given in San Lorenzo on the 22d of October, 1798, his majesty thought proper to declare and order that the power of distributing and conceding all species of royal lands, which was vested in the political and military government, should privately belong to the intendency of these provinces, with prohibition to other authorities to intermeddle. The intendency made use of the said power in virtue of the said royal order, from its reception until the 9th of September, 1812, on which its functions ceased in Pensacola, without any other interval than that which took place from June, 1804, to August, 1805, of which I shall speak afterwards, caused by the orders of the commandant of West Florida, (who, in the interval, made likewise some concessions of lands and lots, which ceased by royal disposition, commanding that the intendant should continue in the exercise of the aforesaid power; and, as it did operate with full authority and prohibition of any other in the distribution and concession of lands, it does not seem that it should have remitted detailed accounts of those which it made to the intendency of this island, in order to serve for evidence in it, unless it should be of lands sold, and their product, for the knowledge of the tribunal of principal treasury of accounts; and if it was its duty to do it, it will probably have done it, in which case the necessary notes of the aforesaid sale of lands will be found in the aforesaid tribunal; of these, and the other lands graciously conceded, even to the smallest, there would be full evidence in this intendency, if the former sub-delegate of Pensacola, Colonel Don Jose Masot, had executed the orders of this superintendency, which directed the transportation of the archives of that intendency to this place, and, in particular, the archives of the office of lands, (juegado,) which was entire, as it will be said in proper time.
Third. From the time, that, in September, 1812, the intendency of that province ceased, several other concessions were made by the commandants and subdelegates, and likewise two or three small portions were sold. In 1813, lots of the city of Pensacola, and lands of one arpent each of the gardens above, contiguous to the said place, were sold for account of the national finances, the Contador de Rezargos Don Antonio Cabanas having charge of them in that province. In the same year of 1813, and part of 1814, the constitutional corporation of Pensacola sold several lands for the price of their estimation, and royal lots at auction, being authorized to do so not only by the imperious law of necessity, in order to support the garrison and the officers of that place, but likewise by the law of the 1st of January, 1813, and the consent of the aforesaid Don Antonio Cabanas, charged with the public finances, given on the 7th of October, 1813. Lastly. After the dissolution of this corporation, in consequence of the decree of the 4th of May, 1814, the subdelegates made concessions of land, and, even in the time of Mr. Masot, did sell lots in the city, and lands in the said suburbs, of which he did give notice or relation to this superintendency, although vastly different from that which my deputy there, Lieutenant Don Pedro Reggio, remitted to me directly. This lasted until the intendant of army in this island, Don Alexandro Ramirez, having assured, or to speak more correctly, it having been declared, in the council held in this captaincy general, that the superintendency of the two Floridas belonged to his lordship, the same declared on the 17th of November, 1817, that he only had power to grant lands in the Floridas. And, as he had officially announced before to the subdelegation of West Florida, his taking possession of the superintendency of the same, which, if I recollect well, was on the 3d of July, 1816, for that double reason, the records of the land conceded, and of those asked for, were sent him, from the reception of the said advice and declaration, for the knowledge and approbation of the said authority, and are probably to be found in the secretary, except those which may have been returned to the parties with the decrees they had petitioned for. The books in which were registered the formal titles, which had been despatched by order of the same superintendent, and the original records which took place in order to obtain them of the concessions which his lordship made directly in both Floridas, and of those which he confirmed and ratified in the years of 1817 and 1818, until he was
apprised of the negotiations about the cession of said province, are likewise to be found in said office, and of all of them I have taken note in my office.
Fourth. I have said that the concessions and sales of land, without any exceptions, made by the intendency of Louisiana and West Florida, in that last province, from 1799 to 1812, inclusive, and even those granted since by other authorities, full evidence could be found in this intendency, if the commandant and subdelegate of Pensacola, Colonel Don Jose Masot, had executed the orders of the aforesaid superintendent general subdelegate, because his lordship, having settled all previous matters, not only had directed my removal to this place, in the beginning of 1817, in order to fix myself in it as officer of the finances, and in order to be able to regulate and despatch, with my aid and ministry, the department of royal lands, but he likewise ordered, and even a second time, that the archives of that intendency, and, in particular, that of the tribunal of lands, which was then entire, with all the register's protocols, books, records, plans, and other documents, should be remitted and removed here; he, (Masot,) could not oppose himself to my removal, because it had been notified to him by his excellency the captain general, in date of the 22d of March, of the said year; but he did so to the removal of the papers of the tribunal of lands, and he compelled Don Francisco Gutierrez de Arroyo, then provisory secretary of that intendency, and charged with the transportation of all these archives, which, for that purpose, he had already put in boxes, to open those which contained the tribunal of lands, and leave them : and I believe that few or none of that class did come then, although I believe to have seen among them the book where the title of the concession of lots in Pensacola was registered, and some other loose papers, which, by chance, were separated from the others. That subdelegate kept the aforesaid document, although the order was repeated, until, in May, 1818, the troops of the United States, under the command of General Jackson, took possession of that province; when, in virtue of the 5th article of the capitulation which he made with him on the 28th of the said month, he einbarked with them for this port, and reached that of Campeachy, and coming from there here, in the same vessel, which was Anglo-American, (United States,) and with the lawful flag of his nation, he was visited by a corsair, calling himself insurgent, who took one box of the said papers, as it is reported, and threw the rest overboard ; nevertheless, it seems to me that Don Francisco Gutierrez de Arroyo brought with him, when he arrived here in August, 1817, the inventories; at least I am certain to have seen that of the papers of the tribunal of lands, which, by order of the said Signior Masot, he delivered in the fort of Barrancas to the secretary of that commandancy and subdelegation, Lieutenant Don Carlos Reggio, with his receipt, and the signature of Arroyo: and likewise, it seems to me, if 'I don't mistake, that it has the seen (visto bueno) of the subdelegate, Masot. This is already one evidence which is in this intendency, which, perhaps, may be sufficient in fault of others, and to which, if it seems proper to your lordship, an authentic copy could be added to this record, as likewise of that which may be in evidence, about the sale of lands and lots by the tribunal of accounts.
Fifth. It is likewise to observe, if, perhaps, it must enter into the statement required by the royal order, that there have been cessions of very considerable extent of territory, belonging to both Floridas, made by the Lower Creeks and Seminole Indians who inhabit said provinces, and which have been confirmed, and whose titles have been despatched by the commandancy or government of West Florida, in 1806 and 1811; and that the captain general made another concession of no less extent, in West Florida, to the same individuals, in January, 1818, in compensation of damages and injuries received, according to papers which I have seen; and I do not know, if, of that class of concession, there is any evidence or notice in this intendency.
Sixth. By the 8th article of the treaty by which the two Floridas are ceded to the United States of America, made in Washington on the 22d of February, 1819, and ratified by his majesty on the 21st of February, 1820, it is stipulated, that all the concessions of lands made by his catholic majesty, or by his lawful authorities, before the 24th of January, 1818, in the aforesaid territory, which his majesty cedes to the United States, shall be ratified and acknowledged to the persons then in possession of them, in the same manner that they would be if his majesty had continued in the dominion of these territories. And in the ratification, his majesty, speaking expressly of the said article, says: “ Desirous at the same time, of avoiding any doubt or ambiguity concerning the meaning of the eighth article of the said treaty, in respect to the date which is pointed out in it, as the period for the confirmation of the grants of land made in favour of the Duke of Alagon, the Count of Punonrostro, 'and Don Pedro de Vargas, being annulled by its tenor, I think proper to declare that the said three grants have remained, and do remain, entirely annulled and invalid." The whole of which seems to me worth taking notice of, for many reasons; and one of them, as I understand it, is, that it is limited to the three concessions mentioned, and to no other which had been made, at least to the date of the treaty, and that this clause will then determine the time where to conclude the statement which is given to the count; and as to the time where it must be begun, it must be deduced from what follows:
Seventh and last. By the third article of the treaty concluded in St. Ildefonso, on the first of October, 1800, Spain retroceded to France the province of Louisiana, with the same extension it had when the latter power ceded to the first ; and by a royal order, dated at Barcelona on the 15th of January, 1802, it was ordered to make the surrender. The commissaries appointed for that purpose issued a solemn proclamation in the city of New Orleans, on the 18th of May, 1803, and caused it to be posted in public places,