J. C. A. Stagg


It has become conventional to regard the East Florida revolution of 1812 as a singularly colorful and controversial episode in the history of the early republic. Its colorful aspects have lent themselves to the writing of fast-paced narratives that make for good reading because its organizers-United States government agents George Mathews and John McKee-brought to the performance of their duties roughly equal proportions of outright illegality, low intrigue, and not a little incompetence. The revolution they staged has always been controversial because it has been difficult to escape the conclusion that it embodied the desire of the administration of James Madison to enlarge the nation by actively subverting the Spanish regime in East Florida.1 It is now reasonably clear that the actions of Mathews and McKee in Florida and on the Gulf Coast between 1810 and 1812 departed far more from the policies of the administration than they fairly reflected them.