PRE-STATEHOOD 31 and they defeated the governor’s “city ticket. A series of petty squabbles ensued, with the governor steadily losing ground in the battle for public favor. The territorial general assembly handed Williams what was tantamount to a strong vote of no confidence, and the governor, “rather than face the unpleasant prospect of continual bickering with a hostile General Assembly… decided on ‘going out of office with’ Jefferson.” Jefferson filled the vacancy with David Holmes of Virginia. David Holmes arrived in Natchez on June 30, 1809. His plan was to “cherish peace and good will among the people and to secure a respect for the Authority of the law,” and, as Haynes observed, “to an amazing extent, he was successful.” Holmes came at a good time. The old factionalism and bickering was dying down as some of the more hot tempered combatants either died or retired from the public scene. In addition, the sections to the east and north were growing fast. This backwoods growth was a threat to Natchez dominance, so the old squabbles had to be put aside. The old factionalism was also being overshadowed by international affairs, especially the Napoleonic wars that would soon lead to the War of 1812 in North America. The British, hoping to keep America tied up at home and thus unable to ship goods to France, fomented trouble with tribes all along the western frontier. Also, showing neither respect for nor fear of America, Britain “impressed” as many as 10,000 American sailors captured on the high seas to serve in the Royal Navy. Those practices insulted and infuriated Mississippians, most of whom were transplanted from the Atlantic states, and led to protests and calls for war against the old enemy Britain. And, in fact, Congress declared war in June 1812. Britain was not, however, the only European nation with whom Mississippi had a problem during the Holmes administration. The settlers along the Florida border were increasingly irritated by their neighbor to the south. The new United States was dynamic and growing, while Spanish Florida was stagnant. There was land for the taking down there, not to mention free access to Mobile if the Spanish were removed. However, the administration in Washington was content to move slowly in taking Florida, thinking that the Spanish colony would collapse on its own. While the government in Washington did not want to directly confront Spain, it did send out signals that it would not stand in the way if the locals decided to act. The administration even sent a delegation to Pensacola to ask the Spanish governor to arrange a peaceful surrender. But the Americans in and near Spanish West Florida had waited long enough. They struck in September 1810, when they took over the weakly-defended Spanish fort at Baton Rouge. On September 25, 1810, the people who lived PRESIDENT JAMES MADISON “Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that the inhabitants of the western part of the Mississippi territory be, and they hereby are, authorised to form for themselves a constitution and state government, and to assume such name as they shall deem proper; and the said state, when formed, shall be admitted into the Union upon the same footing with the original states, in all respects whatever.”– Enabling Act signed on March 1, 1817, by President James Madison, fourth president of the United States PHOTO COURTESY OF THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, POPULAR GRAPHIC ARTS COLLECTION between the Mississippi River and the Pearl declared their land to be the independent Republic of West Florida and hoisted their new flag, a blue banner with a single white star in the center. The Americans in the present day Mississippi boot heel were not part of the new republic, but unlike the rest of the piney woods, they at least had some prospects for future success. Everyone knew that Florida (at least to the Perdido River) was destined to be incorporated soon into the United States, probably into the prosperous Orleans territory of Louisiana. But Washington County, that huge area north of the boot heel, had no such immediate hopes. Its people, scattered pioneer farmers, were thinly spread and