Early State Records on LLMC Digital

Early State Records is one of LLMC’s most substantial initiatives, thanks to the patronage of several libraries which are listed *here* (list current as of publication).  During Phase One, LLMC will digitize 919 reels from the Library of Congress’ microfilm collection, containing the records, treatises, newspaper accounts and any other legal or related documents from pre-colonial through early statehood of the 15 Atlantic Coast states as well as Native American tribes.  Applying advanced digitization post-processing and value-added metadata  to these primary and secondary sources which were held in numerous state, federal and foreign libraries, historical societies, archives and legislatures, LLMC’s LLMC Digital online service will make many rare and little seen documents available to researchers and society as a whole. 

An example of the breadth of these documents can be found in the Florida reels of Early State Records.  Although most people tend to focus on Florida’s Spanish roots, Early State Records captures some intriguing details of Florida’s history.   For example, while everyone is generally familiar with Spanish colonization, a translated manuscript from Captain Gougues’s Recapture of Florida concerned the founding of a French Huguenot colony under the leadership of Admiral Ribault in the 1560s.  The Catholic Spanish king was displeased with these Protestants, and subsequently ordered a massacre by the Spanish in 1565.  The manuscript then described the retaking of the area by the French under the leadership of Captain Gourgues, and, with the assistance of friendly native tribes, massacred the Spanish garrison in retaliation.  However, as most people realize, the French were never able to reestablish any colonies.  Still one would imagine that revenge was somewhat of its own reward.  (LLMC #20017) 

Moving to statehood, Florida was the scene of revolving state constitutions.  Starting with the short lived 1812 Spanish constitution (#20039), the new state of Florida passed a constitution in 1838. (#20041, with subsequent amendments.)   However, discussions of the impending Civil War resulted in another convention and constitution.   This 1861 convention resulted in a revised and amended Florida Constitution and ordinances, beginning with an ordinance of secession from the United States (#20043).  A subsequent called session in 1862 revised and added a few other sections, although secession was still preeminent (#20044).  And, as we all know, the Confederacy lost.  Florida subsequently needed two constitutions, one in 1865 and then 1868, to make the victorious United States Congress satisfied (#20048 and #20051). 

These Early State Records also provide information regarding the society of the times.  Newspapers provided significant information, as well as articles or notices, that demonstrated the everyday life of the readers.  For example, The Pensacola Gazette (1824-1830) had typical reports on state and federal legislative and court news and proceedings, as well as local and foreign news.  However, advertisements of the time were also found throughout the Gazettes, as well as letters to the editor, and public notices.  Some copies even had literary sections, consisting mostly of poetry.  Want boarding for a gentleman?   How about 25 boxes of claret wine of “superior quality;” or even a fresh supply of summer clothes?  The newspapers provided this information.  More troubling, and indicative of the norms of the time, were the notices of rewards for the return of runaway slaves (#20002; see also many other periodicals listed in the records).

Early State Records has a vast array of data, from curious facts to significant research material.  Continue to check out these historic documents of our Nation’s beginning as they become available on LLMC Digital and see what information you might find.   

Written by Joyce Savio-Herleth, Saint Louis University School of Law