The years 1818 to 1823 were unquiet times in the northern Caribbean. The Latin nations of the area were either stabilizing their newly gained independence or preparing for further expressions of defiance against their Iberian overlords. In any event there was neither time nor the resources for organizing a military patrol of the waters extending from Venezuela to Tampa Bay, from Yucatan to Puerto Rico. Piracy was virtually unrestrained, and wrecking, considered by some observers to have been an only slightly more honorable enterprise, went unregulated. Shortly after John W. Simonton had acquired the island, then known as Cayo Hueso, and Lieutenant Matthew C. Perry had planted the American flag there in March 1822, Congress was importuned to establish Key West as a port of entry and to provide such military support as might be necessary to protect it from the forays of outlaws and pirates. In a memorial to Congress, Simonton set the tone for innumerable subsequent publicity releases by praising the quality of the harbor, the heathful climate, and the excellence of the fresh spring water abounding there. President James Monroe was persuaded to consider the feasibility of fortifying the island, and, on February 1, 1823, Commodore David Porter was assigned the command of the West Indian Squadron, with instructions to “suppress piracy and protect American citizens and commerce in the West Indies and the Gulf of Mexico, and to establish a naval base for supplying the vessels of the squadron.”
Hammond, E. Ashby
"Notes on the Medical History of Key West, 1822-1832,"
Florida Historical Quarterly: Vol. 46
, Article 3.
Available at: https://stars.library.ucf.edu/fhq/vol46/iss2/3