Rebellion 1838     
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Gen. Thomas Sydney Jesup
General Thomas Sydney Jesup, U.S. Army portrait. Date and artist unknown. Florida Photographic Collection.
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Within two years of Adams’ speech, his arguments found their first practical application when General Jesup offered freedom to rebellious Black Seminoles in Florida. Jesup made the offer for military reasons, to separate the blacks from the Indians; this move, he wrote the Secretary of War, would “weaken [the Indians] more than the loss of the same number of their own people.” Significantly, “Jesup’s proclamation,” as the Black Seminoles came to call it, was the first emancipation of rebellious blacks in U.S. history.* And it was implicitly premised upon federal authority under the war powers.

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Sources: Jesup to Poinsett March 18, 1838, as cited in Porter Black 95, Littlefield Africans and Seminoles 26-28, Giddings Exiles 327, House Document 25.3 225: 80, 88. ©
*There were many precise details defining who received freedom under Jesup’s Proclamation. He made the offer to black allies of the Seminoles who came in for surrender, and Jesup distinguished this group from allies whom the Seminoles themselves handed over. The first group were to go west as free men and women, the second group as traditional slaves of the Seminoles. Jesup did not explicitly promise freedom to slaves who fled plantations during the war, only to the Seminole allies, i.e., the established “Indian Negro” maroons. In at least 42 documented cases, however, and probably more that remain to be documented, the army allowed plantation slaves to go west anyway. The process took place under the auspices of a board to review cases where whites claimed ownership of surrendering blacks who said they were allies of the Seminoles. The board compensated owners who could prove their claims, and then shipped the rebels west, explaining they were too dangerous to keep on the southeastern frontier. Military records show at least 42 slaves moved west overtly through the board review system. Beyond these fine points, it’s worth noting that slaveholders tended to view all of the black combatants in Florida, both maroons and plantation slaves, as slaves-in-revolt. This view toward the Black Seminoles threatened their liberty, led to many of the tensions that produced the Second Seminole War, and ultimately necessitated Jesup’s extraordinary offer of emancipated status to the maroons.
Part 4, Freedom: Outline  l Images
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 Trail Narrative
 + Prologue
 + Background: 1693-1812
 + Early Years: 1812-1832
 + War: 1832-1838
 + Exile: 1838-1850
 - Freedom: 1850-1882
+ Cost of Freedom
+ Liberty Foretold
spacer spacer Renown in Exile
The War Power
Lincoln's Choice
Black Militants
+ Liberty Found
 + Legacy & Conclusion