Mark F. Boyd


The action generally known as the Dade Massacre is an event which cannot be adequately understood if viewed by itself, since it was but one aspect of an explosion occurring in the winter of 1835-1836 which rocked the Territory of Florida. The explosion was the culmination of the mounting tension between the whites on the one hand, and red and black on the other, whose origins antedated the acquisition of Florida by the United States. This crisis must be viewed in the perspective of, and against the background formed by the forces from which it developed. It is attempted here to sketch this background in a detached manner, though limitations of space preclude presentation in detail. The tale is a narrative of harshness, with many sordid aspects. In view of the pressure of settlers for lands, the solution of the problem through emigration of the Indians was probably the best which could be devised, and it is to be regretted that the advantages of removal were not more patiently and attractively presented to the Indians before a determination to resist removal arose among them. When this sentiment had crystalized, the climax was the wholly natural reaction of a simple, bewildered, wronged and liberty-loving people; who, subjected to inexorable pressure, saw no other dignified solution or avenue of relief. The outburst itself consisted of four major sanguinary events of nearly simultaneous occurrence and, as is so often the case, many of those who felt its impact had little if any responsibility for its production.