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various doubts that occur are cleared up; but they will not be removed until then, nor will I leave this place until all matters are regulated and concluded between us that demand my personal assistance.”
Thus upon the pretence of doubts, the nature of which was not explained, Col. Coppinger declined positively to deliver up documents conformably to the express stipulation of the treaty. Col. Butler immediately proposed to him a conference on the subject, which was held on the 21st of June. At that conference Col. Coppinger told Col. Butler, that "as an individual he believed those archives should be given over to the United States, but that his orders precluded him from turning them over." Colonel Butler therefore assented, as indeed no other alternative seemed to be left him, that Col. Coppinger should have time to write to the Captain General of Cuba for the decision of his doubts, and mentioned to him the opportunity of a vessel then about to sail for the Havanna, whence she was to return to St. Augustine, and might bring the answer of the Captain General. Col. Coppinger on the 22d of June informed Col. Butler that he had that day written to the Captain General for the solution of his doubts, and until he received his answer, the archives should not be removed from St. Augustine, and should remain precisely as they were. Col. Butler, by his letter of 26 June, agreed to remain silent on the head of the archives until the answer should be received from the Captain General; but within one week from that time Col. Butler received information that a large portion of these documents were packed for transportation. He wrote therefore on the 3d of July to Col. Coppinger, enumerating specifically several kinds of records relating directly to the property of the province, and declaring that he considered them among those which were not to be removed. The reply to which by Col.
Coppinger is especially to be remarked, as expressing his opinion, that several of those documents were excluded from delivery. There can be no reasonable doubt that all the papers specified by Col. Butler's letter were of those which the treaty had stipulated should be delivered up. When therefore General Jackson considered and compared together the express and positive order of the King of Spain to the Captain General and Governor of Cuba, that he should faithfully see to the delivery of the documents, the [shifting and frivolous]1 pretences on which he evaded the delivery to Col. Forbes of those which were at the Havanna, within his own control; the promise that he would direct the delivery by Col. Coppinger of those that were at St. Augustine; the peremptory postponement of Col. Coppinger to deliver up any documents or records relating to individual property; his engagement that none of them should be removed until he should receive further instructions from the Captain General, and within one week after, his attempt to pack up for transportation to Cuba a large portion of them; and finally his pretension that many papers, manifestly having direct relation to the property of the province, were excluded from delivery; and his recurrence to the literal sense of his orders from the Captain General, with the verbal avowal to Col. Butler of his own opinion, that the documents ought to be delivered, though he was forbidden by his instructions to deliver them; it was impossible for General Jackson to close his eyes against [indications so demonstrative of tarnished faith and violated engagements]. He therefore gave instructions to the officer commanding at St. Augustine to take possession of the papers which the treaty had stipulated should be delivered.
1 These words were struck out.
2 For these words, "proceedings so unjustifiable and improper" were substituted.
The necessity for taking possession of them had indeed arisen before the instructions of General Jackson were received. Most of the records relating to individual property had been left in possession of Don Juan de Entealgo; who, on the pretence that he had purchased at public sales under the Spanish government, not only these documents, but the office of register of them, openly advanced the claim of retaining the records as his private property, and of continuing the exercise of the office, and receiving fees for granting copies of the papers.
These pretensions were raised on the 5th of September, nearly three months after the doubts of Col. Coppinger had, with the consent of Col. Butler, been referred to the Captain General and Governor of Cuba. Long before that time the answer of that officer ought to have been received, peremptorily commanding the delivery of the papers. It was impossible that the United States should acquiesce in the claims of Mr. Entealgo. They were unquestionably entitled to the documents; and whatever injury he might sustain by the delivery of them, it might give him a fair demand of indemnity from his own government, but certainly not from the United States.
Yet the secretary and acting governor, Mr. Worthington, allowed a further delay of nearly a month, before taking the decisive measures necessary to obtain the documents. He then, on the 3d of October, authorized three persons of respectable character to obtain them, with the use of force if necessary; but with all suitable delicacy and respect towards the persons who had been the officers of Spain in the provinces. I have the honor of enclosing herewith copies of the orders from the Secretary Worthington to the commissioners appointed by him to receive, and affidavits to examine and assort the papers, and of their reports to him, exhibiting the
manner in which both those services were performed. They will prove that every regard was shown towards Col. Coppinger and Mr. Entealgo, compatible with the execution of the duty, and after the assortment of the papers, all those which were not of the description stipulated to be delivered over by the treaty have ever been and yet are ready to be returned to Col. Coppinger, or to any person duly authorized to receive them.
Such is the view which I am instructed to say has definitively been taken by the President of the United States, in relation to the transactions which formed the subjects of your letters of 18 and 22 of November last, and of that of Mr. Salmon of 6 October. He is satisfied that by the proceedings of the Governor of Florida towards Col. Callava on the 23d of August last, and towards certain individuals, presuming to act as a body of Spanish officers in Florida, in contempt of the authority of the United States, on the 29th of September; and by those of the Secretary of East Florida, acting as governor, on the 2d and 3d of October, towards Col. Coppinger and Don Juan de Entealgo, no intention of injury or insult to his Catholic Majesty or his governor was intended; and that no just cause of complaint by them was given. That those measures were all rendered necessary by the total disregard of the Captain General and Governor of Cuba and the Floridas, and of his subordinate officers in the Floridas, not only of the solemn stipulation in the treaty for the delivery of the archives and documents directly relating to the property of the provinces, but of the royal order of their sovereign, commanding the said Captain General to see to the faithful execution of that engagement - an engagement, in the fulfilment of which the rights not only of the United States, but of every individual inhabitant of the provinces and proprietors in them were deeply and vitally
interested. The mere enumeration of the documents as specified in the demands of them made by the officers of the United States before resort was had to any measure of rigor for extorting them, proves that they were indispensable for the establishment of public right or for the security of private property. To Spain not one of those documents could after the transfer of the provinces be of the slightest interest or utility. To the United States they were all important. If the governor and secretary had so little understood their duty to the public rights of their country, committed to their charge, as to have suffered the removal of records essential to guard the interests of the nation against the insatiate greediness and fraudulent devices of land speculators, they had yet a sacred duty to perform to the people of the country, by retaining the common vouchers of their estates. What individual would have been secure in the tenure of his land, in the evidences of his debts, or in the very shelter over his head, if Col. Callava could have carried to Cuba his own judgments in favor of the Vidals, because their father, when alive, had been an auditor of war; and if Don Juan de Entealgo could have transported to the same island all the title deeds of East Florida, because he had bought his office of recorder at public auction?
The delays [and evasions]1 of the Captain General of Cuba, with regard to the fulfilment of the royal order transmitted to him by Col. Forbes, were so extraordinary, and upon any just principle so unaccountable, that the minister of the United States in Spain was by letters from this Department, of 13 and 16 June last, instructed, upon his return to Madrid, to represent the same to your government, and to request new and peremptory orders to that officer for the delivery of the archives in his possession, conformably to the stipula
1 Words in brackets were struck out.