• TABLE OF CONTENTS
HIDE
 Half Title
 Frontispiece
 Title Page
 Preface
 Table of Contents
 Soldiering on the southern...
 From military to political...
 Reaping the unearned increment
 Defending the public domain
 To the "nucleus" go the spoils
 A frontier entrepreneur
 War and politics
 The austere forties
 The lord of the lake
 Defender of the union
 Notes
 Bibliography
 Index






Title: Richard Keith Call, Southern Unionist
Publisher: University Press of Florida
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 Material Information
Title: Richard Keith Call, Southern Unionist
Physical Description: vii, 195 p. : illus. ; 24 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Doherty, Herbert J
Publisher: University of Florida Press
Place of Publication: Gainesville
Publication Date: 1961
Copyright Date: 1961
 Subjects
Subject: History -- Florida -- 1821-1865   ( lcsh )
Historia -- Florida -- 1821 1865
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
 Notes
Bibliography: Bibliography: p. 185-190.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00020424
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University Press of Florida
Rights Management: Copyright 1961 by the Board of Commissioners of State Institutions of Florida. This work is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/. You are free to electronically copy, distribute, and transmit this work if you attribute authorship. However, all printing rights are reserved by the University Press of Florida (http://www.upf.com). Please contact UPF for information about how to obtain copies of the work for print distribution. You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work). For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. Any of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from the University Press of Florida. Nothing in this license impairs or restricts the author's moral rights.
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Table of Contents
    Half Title
        Page i
    Frontispiece
        Page ii
    Title Page
        Page iii
        Page iv
    Preface
        Page v
        Page vi
    Table of Contents
        Page vii
    Soldiering on the southern frontier
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
    From military to political life
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
    Reaping the unearned increment
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
    Defending the public domain
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
    To the "nucleus" go the spoils
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
    A frontier entrepreneur
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
    War and politics
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
    The austere forties
        Page 118
        Page 119
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
        Page 127
        Page 128
        Page 129
        Page 130
        Page 131
        Page 132
        Page 133
        Page 134
    The lord of the lake
        Page 135
        Page 136
        Page 137
        Page 138
        Page 139
        Page 140
        Page 141
        Page 142
        Page 143
        Page 144
        Page 145
    Defender of the union
        Page 146
        Page 147
        Page 148
        Page 149
        Page 150
        Page 151
        Page 152
        Page 152a
        Page 152b
        Page 152c
        Page 152d
        Page 152e
        Page 152f
        Page 152g
        Page 152h
        Page 153
        Page 154
        Page 155
        Page 156
        Page 157
        Page 158
        Page 159
        Page 160
        Page 161
        Page 162
    Notes
        Page 163
        Page 164
        Page 165
        Page 166
        Page 167
        Page 168
        Page 169
        Page 170
        Page 171
        Page 172
        Page 173
        Page 174
        Page 175
        Page 176
        Page 177
        Page 178
        Page 179
        Page 180
        Page 181
        Page 182
        Page 183
        Page 184
    Bibliography
        Page 185
        Page 186
        Page 187
        Page 188
        Page 189
        Page 190
    Index
        Page 191
        Page 192
        Page 193
        Page 194
        Page 195
Full Text







RICHARD KEITH CALL





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RICHARD KEITH CALL


Southern Unionist


by

HERBERT J. DOHERTY, JR.


UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA PRESS
GAINESVILLE


1961



















































A University of Florida Press Book

COPYRIGHT, 1961, BY THE BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
OF STATE INSTITUTIONS OF FLORIDA

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOG NO. 61-17590


PRINTED BY THE BULKLEY-NEWMAN PRINTING COMPANY
TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA











Preface


A MONG THE MEN who made the history of the old South,
Richard Keith Call played a picturesque and dramatic part.
From the War of 1812 until the Civil War he lived a life
fascinating in its variety. As a soldier he fought Indians in the terri-
tories of the old Southwest, Spaniards in Florida, and British vet-
erans of Waterloo at New Orleans. In civil life he was a lawyer,
land speculator, delegate in Congress, railroad president, and plant-
er. In politics he was successively a Democrat, Whig, Native Ameri-
can, and Constitutional Unionist, but was ever constant in his attach-
ment-to the federal Union and in his conservatism.
Though he was a defender of the federal form of government
and of Southern institutions, Call was a nationalist at heart, dream-
ing great dreams of a powerful American nation. Through the ante-
bellum South moved his figure, now prominent, now manipulating
behind the scenes, now raging in frustrated political impotence.
He was an outspoken, die-hard conservative and in Florida he stood
almost alone against the tide of emotion which swept on toward
Civil War. His is the story of a class of Southern men who had all
but vanished by 1860-cultured, aristocratic and patriarchal in spirit,
skeptical of democracy, but steadfast in devotion to the American
Union.
In collecting materials for this study, the writer has incurred
many debts. In the P. K. Yonge Library of Florida History at the
University of Florida, Mr. Julien C. Yonge and Mrs. Harriet Sko-
field have extended courtesies far beyond the call of duty in assist-
ing the writer and he is particularly grateful for their attentions.
S Mrs. Alberta Johnson and Edward Williamson of the Florida His-
torical Society are to be thanked for their aid, as is Dr. Dorothy
Dodd, Florida State Librarian. At the National Archives countless
hours were saved the writer by Dr. Clarence Carter and Dr. H. P.
Beers, who generously made the facilities of the territorial records
office available. A debt of gratitude is owed to Mrs. Mallie Wilson
Farrell for her kind interest and her efforts in making available the
researches of her husband, the late Colonel Louis Farrell, on the
Kirkman family.
[V]







VI Preface
I gladly acknowledge my thanks to Professors Fletcher M. Green,
Hugh T. Lefler, Cornelius O. Cathey, and Samuel Proctor for read-
ing and criticizing the manuscript.
Above all, this work has been greatly facilitated by Mrs. Mary
Call Collins of Tallahassee, Florida, who graciously gave the author
access to the collection of Call papers deposited at the University
-of North Carolina. Sincerest thanks go to her and to her husband,
former Governor LeRoy Collins, for the kindnesses they have shown
the author.
HERBERT J. DOHERTY, JR.
Gainesville, Florida











Contents


Preface

1. Soldiering on the Southern Frontier

2. From Military to Political Life

3. Reaping the Unearned Increment

4. Defending the Public Domain

5. To the "Nucleus" Go the Spoils

6. A Frontier Entrepreneur

7. War and Politics

8. The Austere Forties

9. The Lord of the Lake

10. Defender of the Union

Picture Section

Notes

Bibliography

Index


v

1

16

41

57

70

84

93

118

135

146

follows 152

163

185

191


[ VII]


I














Soldiering on the Southern Frontier



N tEAR THE BANKS OF THE Cumberland River below
Clarksville, Tennessee, in the year 1813 a warm Septem-
ber sun shone down on a small boys' school which styled
itself Mount Pleasant Academy. Ordinarily one might have expected
to find af group restless youngsters chafing under the routine
of the school, partially because of the outdoor temptations of a lazy
late summer and partially because of their envy of older young men
who might be leading more exciting lives full of danger and adven-
ture in America's second war with Great Britain. The boys of Mount
Pleasant were particularly distracted at that time, however, because
of the recent news of an Indian massacre of hundreds of settlers,
men, women, and children, late in August at Fort Mims in nearby
Mississippi Territory, Creek tribesmen led by William Weatherford
had surprised and annihilated the little outpost near the Alabama
River in the first major action of a great Indian uprising. Inflamed
by the eloquence of the great Tecumseh, and encouraged by Ameri-
can preoccupation in the war with Britain, most of the Creek tribes
had eagerly flocked to the banner of revolt.l*
Throughout the state of Tennessee news of the massacre produced
reactions of fear, rage, and desire for revenge. Thoroughly aroused
by the contagious war spirit, the restless boys at Mount Pleasant
soon allowed their imaginations to be filled with dreams of military
glory and high adventure, heightened by the prospects of escaping
the restraints of academic discipline. Persistently among the excited
boys moved the determined figure of one who spoke to his teen-
aged comrades with the assurance and prestige of a twenty-year-
old. Persuasively, in a voice touched with the unmistakable accents
of old Virginia, this young man unfolded a plan which tantalized
the students. They would form their own military company A
volunteer force would certainly be called for to resist the Indians,
*Notes begin on page 163.
[1]









and the youngViinian vowed that he would lead the students to
join any body of men ready to go into action. This young man,
Richard ei allJ come to Mounj,_.ai 18nlf ram_-
enucy. Descended from a family proud of its participation in
the American Revolution, young Call had often longed for a mili-
tary career. In the spring of 1813 his taste for army life had been
whetted when he took part in a brief but unsuccessful expedition
to avenge the Indian murder of a family on the Tennessee River.
This experience had proved heady wine to the young man, and
he was determined not to pass up the new opportunity which
presented itself for the realization of his dreams.2
When news of the Fort Mims massacre reached Nashville the
call had gone out for a public meeting, which enthusiastically ap-
proved resolutions to the legislature demanding aid for the settlers
to the south. On September 25 the legislature empowered the gover-
nor to call 3,500 men into the field under the command of Andrew
Jackson. October 4 was named by Jackson as the date for the as-
sembling of these forces at Fayetteville, a village near the southern
border of Tennessee. Jackson directed Colonel John Coffee to go
ahead to Huntsville in Mississippi Territory to evaluate the situa-
tion and to attempt to restore confidence among the frontiersmen.3
Meanwhile, as young Call went about organizing his company,
word of his activity reached the ears of the school officials. Quite
understandably those gentlemen were not enthusiastic about seeing
their young charges go marching off to war. The president of the
academy talked long and earnestly with Call, trying to convince
him to abandon his scheme. The old gentleman pointed out that
Call and his young friends were in the most important period of
their lives, a period in which they should take fullest advantage of
opportunities for education, and which if neglected might blight
forever their future prospects for success. Under this persuasion
Call relented in part and returned to his fellow students to urge
them to stay on at the academy. His own course was not to be
so easily altered, however, and with a few equally obstinate stu-
dents he joined a neighborhood volunteer company and was elected
its third lieutenant.4
The volunteer company which Call joined was soon coveted by
a brigadier general of drafted militia who wished to attach the unit
to his command. The general sought Lieutenant Call's cooperation
in winning the men over to this arrangement, but the officer had


Richard Keith Call


2







Soldiering on the Southern Frontier


not perceived the proud and arrogant character of the young
lieutenant. Explosively, in a burst of temper characteristic of him
when he felt his dignity had been offended, Call contemptuously
replied, "I would rather be a private in a volunteer company, than
a Brigadier General of drafted militia!"
"You will see," was the cool answer of the general. The angry
young lieutenant now believed his sincerity was being questioned
as well as his dignity offended, and-undoubtedly with visions of
pistols at dawn-he haughtily asked if the senior officer doubted
his word.
"Not at all, sir," came the softened reply.5
In later years Call looked back upon this incident with a mixture
of amusement and wonder that he should have been so "very high
handed" when so young. The impudence of youth, however, brought
him to the attention of Andrew Jackson, who so fancied the spirit
of the young man that he ordered Call's company attached to his
own command. Again buoyant with hope and great expectations,
Call and his comrades moved on toward Nashville to join their
general.6
"I remember nothing in early boyhood which gave much promise
of future good or usefulness," Call once remarked.7 UndoubT tly he
meant that his early life was not a privileged one which offered
opportunities for leisure and education similar to those enjoyed )
by the sons of many wealthy Virginians. Yet the limited opportunity
and occasional hardships of his early life unquestionably were im-
portant in making him the aggressive, self-reliant man that he be-
came. Call had been born in Prince George County, Virginia, near /
Petersburg on October 24, 1792.8 Shortly after his birth the family
moved to Mecklenburg County where William Call, the fatheriied
before young Richard was old enough to form a distinct impression
of him.
William Call left behind him his widow, Helen Meade Walker,
and six children, of whom Richard was the-fourth. Richard recalled
that his father had been a moderately wealthy man for the'times,
but had plunged heavily in speculation in Georgia real estate. This
saddled his family with debts which left Helen Call with little -
means of supporting them. Soon after William Call's death both
the youngest and oldest sons died, and Helen Call gave in to the
entreaties of her brothers to move west to Kentucky and join them.9
In their decision to move westward the Call family was not unusual.


3









Great masses of Virginians had moved into Kentucky, attracted by
the lure of cheap virgin lands which were far more productive than
the exhausted soils of eastern Virginia, worn out by generations
of wasteful exploitation.10
Precisely when the Calls moved is unknown, but apparently it
was shortly after 1800 that the four Call boys and their mother
with all their worldly possessions-five young Negroes, two horses,
and a wagon load of belongings-set out on the long trek across
the mountains. The grandeur and the beauty of the Blue Ridge
seen for the first time on a sunlit evening in October, the vast
loneliness of the wilderness between the settlements of Virginia
and Kentucky, and the great white cliffs of the Kentucky River
crowned with overhanging cedars and laurels made a vivid impres-
sion on the mind of young Richard. The breathtaking excitement
of the journey remained with him long after the novelty of meeting
his uncles had been forgotten."
In due time Helen Call and her sons arrived at the home of her
brother George Walker in Nicholasville, Kentucky. Remaining there
but a few days, the family group soon moved on to the home of a
bachelor uncle, Andrew Walker, on Barren River. After a year
spent there, a third uncle of the boys, David Walker, invited
them to his home near Russellville in Logan County and made
them the gift of a small farm, where they lived until the death of
Helen Call in 1810.12
SAll of Richard Call's uncles in Kentucky were influential and
educated men respected in their communities. George Walker
served in the legislature and was United States Senator from Ken-
tucky for three months in 1814, by gubernatorial appointment.
David Walker had served in the legislature about the time Call
was born and sat in the United State House of Representatives
from Kentucky from 1817 until his death in 1820.13 There in Ken-
tucky under his uncles' watchful eyes and in the companionship
of his brothers, Jacob, George, and William, and his cousins, George
K. and David S. Walker, Richard Call spent his formative years.
While the young American union was experiencing the Jeffer-
sonian "revolution" and doubling in size through the acquisition
of Louisiana, young Call was learning to swim, ride, hunt, shoot,
and fish. All was not boyish pleasure, however, for long hours of
hard manual labor were put in on the little farm. There was no
formal schooling for the boys for months and years at a time, but


Richard Keith Call


4







Soldiering on the Southern Frontier


5


Helen Call, a well-educated woman of determined and vigorous
mind, gathered her sons about her and gave them an education
rootedin-biblical and classical literature.14
From his mother Richard Call inherited a loyal devotion to the
Episcopalian Church, and an exalted sense of pride in his family
and its honor. His father and grandfather had both seen Revolu-
tionary War service, his grandfather having attained the rank of
colonel in the Continental Army. The uncle for whom he was named
had attained the rank of major and a second uncle, Daniel Call,
was a distinguished member of the Richmond bar and a social in-
timate of Chief Justice John Marshall. His mother's brothers George
and David were also Revolutionary veterans. His mother never let
her sons forget their heritage.15
There is probably much in Richard Call's youth which explains
the exaggerated sense of personal honor which all through his life J
was so easily affronted. Perhaps the young man had smarted in-
wardly at the more affluent conditions of life of his relatives and
friends, and their greater fortune in not having undergone the
hardships which he, his mother, and brothers had suffered. Perhaps
his personal ambition and heightened personal sensitivity to imag-
ined slights and slurs stemmed in part from a fear in his boyhood
that somehow his branch of the family might not live up to what
its heritage demanded. At any rate, the intense readiness to be
affronted which we have seen in the young volunteer of twenty was
still evident thirty years later in the planter-lawyer-politician.
AAfter the death of their mother in August, 1810, the brothers
separated and Richard went to live with yet another uncle, Wyeth
Walker, where he studied in preparation for entry into the Mount
SPleasant Academy. In 1811 he enrolled there and was content to
pursue his studies until the outbreak of the Indian troubles in
8813. Under the excitement of war, Call's frontier upbringing and
te family tradition of military service quickly prevailed over his
in rlination toward more scholarly pursuits.16
C all and his comrades from the Academy who had joined the local
company of volunteers arrived late in September, 1813, in Nashville
and moved out toward the Hermitage-as Andrew Jackson's home
was called-to a point where a road branched off to the south to
Murfreesboro. There they were to camp for a few days. While
idling with a group of men gaping at passersby on the road one
day, Call was beckoned to by the driver of a plain country coach







Richard Keith Call


which had stopped in the roadway. Dressed as any frontiersman
might have been, in a dark hunting shirt with a bright yellow fringe,
a leather belt about his waist supporting a tomahawk and hunting
knife, Call stepped up to view three ladies, "one a fine looking Ma-
tron, the other two young and pretty." As they exchanged introduc-
tions the young lieutenant was astonished to learn that he was
talking to Rachel Jackson and two of her young nieces. He had been
in polite conversation with the ladies for a few moments when the
excited shouts of the other men distracted him. He turned to see
a great horse slowly approaching bearing the gaunt figure of Andrew
Jackson, bent with pain and looking pale and emaciated. The gen-
eral was still suffering from severe wounds which he had recently
received in a tavern brawl with Jesse and Thomas Hart Benton.
Jackson paused, asked a few polite questions, and then passed on
with his party. But it was a day the young lieutenant never forgot.
It was his first meeting with "Old Hickory."17
The company to which Call was attached soon moved on to
Fayetteville and there on the seventh of October Jackson took
command of his army. The project which was envisioned by the
general was one which involved first crushing the Creeks and then
moving on to seize Pensacola in Spanish Florida. Jackson was
convinced that Spain and Great Britain were using the Spanish
'-port as a supply base from which they were arming and encourag-
ing the Indians in their uprising. For the first objective two bases
were immediately established, a main supply base on the Tennessee
River, Fort Deposit, and an advanced base fifty miles further south
on the Coosa River, Fort Strother.s1
Call's first taste of the horrors of war occurred in November when
his unit came upon the Indian village of Tallushatchee which the
troops of John Coffee had devastated a few days before. Upon this
village had been inflicted the vengeance for Fort Mims. As recount-
ed by Call: "We found as many as eight or ten dead bodies in a
single cabin. Sometimes the dead mother clasped the dead child
to her breast, and to add another appalling horror to the bloody
catalogue-some of the cabins had taken fire, and half consumed
human bodies were seen amidst the smoking ruins. In other in-
stances dogs had torn and feasted on the mangled bodies of their
masters. Heart sick I turned from the revolting scene.""1
Jackson was seriously hampered in his operations during the
weeks that followed by supply shortages and a growing spirit of


6







Soldiering on the Southern Frontier


rebelliousness among his militiamen. Shortly after an inconclusive
battle at Talladega mutiny grew to serious proportions, but was
temporarily checked by the personality of Jackson. Admiringly,
Call recorded how the general with countenance like a thunder
cloud vehemently hurled terrible threats at deserting units and
sent them silently marching back to their posts. Call's own ambition
and code of values instilled in him the greatest contempt for mutiny
and mutineers. The mere suspicion that he might be connected in
any way with mutiny would have been an insufferable disgrace.
Consequently, when in December Jackson turned back at cannon
point the regiment to which Call belonged, contemptuously rebuk-
ing it, Call was deeply troubled. He felt that the behaviour of the
regiment reflected upon his own honor and he sought an interview
with Jackson to request a transfer from the "infected" unit.20
Jackson was in his quarters slumped in his chair when Call ap-
proached him. After introducing himself the young man asked the
acceptance of his resignation as third lieutenant and offered to serve
in the general's body guard as a private. Annoyed by the interrup-
tion of his thoughts, Jackson rejected the request and curtly term-
inated the interview. As Call left, however, Jackson suddenly called
him back and in an interested tone questioned him closely. Satisfied
at length, he dismissed him saying, "No, Lieutenant, I cannot permit
you to leave your company; as young as you are you may be of
great service; if I had 500 such men I would put an end to
the mutiny before the sun sets."2'
At length Jackson despaired of trying to make use of the demoral-
ized troops and sent most of them back to Tennessee. His forces
continued to dwindle away until in January, 1814, there was a brief
period when only about one hundred loyal men stood with him.
Among them still was Richard Call, now joined by his brother Jacob
who had returned from service in the Northwest under General
William Henry Harrison. By mid-January reinforcements were ar-
riving, and with these new forces Jackson took the field and pressed
toward a great Creek stronghold at Horseshoe Bend on the Talla-
poosa River. As he moved toward this stronghold Jackson's forces
were attacked on the night of January 21 at Emuckfaw Creek, but
the blow was repulsed with few losses. The following day a report
was received from Colonel Coffee indicating that the Horseshoe
Bend fortification was far stronger than had been suspected. Deem-
ing his force insufficient for a successful attack, Jackson reluctantly


7







Richard Keith Call


ordered a retreat to Fort Strother. The Indians began a constant
harassing attack upon the withdrawing forces and at the crossing
of Enotachopco Creek they made an attack in force. There _all
distinguished himself byjoining_Jackson'sxearguards-in protecting
the flank from attack after the troops assigned to that task had fled.22
At this low point in their fortunes, Jackson and his loyal band
received unexpected support from the federal government. The
Thirty-ninth Regiment of regular infantry was assigned to their
assistance and was put under the command of Jackson, who was
recognized as a general on federal service with full power to draw
to his command men and supplies in the quantities needed to crush
the Creeks. With the arrival of the regulars, Jackson rewarded the
faithful handful of men who had stuck by his side throughout the
campaign by dismissing them to their homes until further notice.23
With his brother and their friends, Richard Call turned his steps
homeward and as he trudged back to Kentucky he carried in his
pocket a note which he was to treasure the rest of his life. Its
signature was the bold scrawl "Andrew Jackson" and it read:
Sir, having been abandoned by your Company contrary to my
express orders on the 4th Inst. Having yourself remained at
your post, followed me and bravely caught at Emuckfau and
more bravely with the guards to whom you had attached
yourself at the battle of Enotachapco. there the guards and
those attached to them covered themselves with glory, and
by their bravery Saved my rear from havack and distruc-
tion. you have leave to return to your home and there
await my further orders or the orders of the commander in
chief Major Genl. Thomas Pinckney.
On your retirement you carry with you my grateful ac-
knowledgement for your Services and the bravery you dis-
played with the artillery Company on the banks of the
Enotachapco on the morning of the 24th Insant.24
The defeat of the Creeks was effected at Horseshoe Bend in
March of 1814 but Call had returned home before that time. After
a brief stay with relatives at Russellville, Kentucky, Call returned
to Tennessee where he re-entered Mount Pleasant and applied him-
self diligently to make up for lost time. Only a few months had been
spent back at his books when Call received a letter from Wash-
ington offering him, to his delight, a commission as first lieutenant
in theJUnited States Forty-fourth Infantry. By August 8 he was







Soldiering on the Southern Frontier


back in Russellville penning his acceptance of the appointment.
As might have been expected, it had come through the efforts of
Andrew Jackson, who in May had become Major General Jackson
of the regular army commanding the seventh military district.25
After a few weeks' duty with the recruiting service Call was
ordered to join Jackson in Mississippi Territory, where the latter
had gathered a force of three thousand men at Pierce's Stockade
on the Alabama River. The day after Call's arrival on November
1 Jackson marched on Spanish Pensacola. This unauthorized in-
vasion of Spanish territory was not just to eliminate a source of
supply for the rebellious Indians; it was a move in the larger
war with Great Britain.26 In that war the eastern portion of the
United States had seen disaster come to American arms. Sir Alex-
ander Cochrane had seized Maine, sacked the New England coast,
and burned Washington before moving on to Jamaica. There a
formidable force was being gathered for an invasion of the United
States by way of the Mississippi Valley. In preparation for that
invasion a force of British vessels rode at anchor in Pensacola
Bay and British Marines were billeted in Fort Barrancas.27 Accord-
ing to Call, news of the British movements had been relayed to
Jackson from Vincent Gray, an American commercial man living
in Havana who had many contacts in Europe and the Caribbean.28
Jackson had long desired to strike at Pensacola and the presence
of the British there gave him all the justification that he needed.
By November 6 he stood before the old Spanish town, and on the
morning of the seventh he circled the city from west to east and
advanced upon it in three columns from the east. The column in
which Call marched entered the town and turned southward down
Palafox Street against a battery of "beautiful brass four pounders."
With few losses the town was soon occupied and the old Spanish
governor was seen frantically dashing about with a white flag.
While Jackson discussed surrender terms with him in the Govern-
ment House, British vessels in the bay began to fire upon the city.
Lieutenant Call, in charge of the captured four pounders, seized
the initiative and moved them into position to fire upon the vessels.
He opened up on some small boats near the shore with grape
and canister and upon the nearest large vessel with round shot.
The small ships retired and the larger one slipped her cable and
put to sea as Call fired his last ammunition. He recorded, 'had
she not run I must have done so the next moment."29


9







10


Richard Keith Call


During the night of November 7, as Jackson made plans for his
assault on Fort Barrancas, some fourteen miles away, the British
set the torch to its magazine and slipped away into the Gulf of
Mexico. Fearing that they might be heading toward Mobile, Jack-
son abandoned his Florida conquests and rapidly moved toward
Mobile Bay. When it became apparent that New Orleans rather
than Mobile was the goal, Jackson sent his mounted troops on
to the Louisiana metropolis overland while the infantry were
transported by ship from Mobile to New Orleans by way of Lakes
Borgne and Pontchartrain.30
The events of the battles before New Orleans from the initial
one of December 23, 1814, until the last on January 8, 1815, are
recounted in detail by all the biographers of Jackson and by num-
bers of military historians. Richard K. Call's own account of his
participation was never finished and varies from the published
works in some details. It is sufficient to note here that Call con-
ducted himself creditably and won the approval of General Jackson,
who cited him as "worthy of promotion." Shortly thereafter Call
received the rank of brevet captain for "gallant conduct" at Pensa-
cola on November 7 and at New Orleans on December 23.31
In May of 1815, the Creeks having been crushed and the war with
Great Britain concluded, General Jackson and his lady returned to
Nashville, where he established his headquarters as the commander
of the new military Division of the South. In the same month
Call was transferred to the First Infantry Regiment and settled
down to several years of routine garrison duty.32 During 1816 he
was stationed at Fort Bowyer on Mobile Bay, where his major task
was repair and rehabilitation of the post. In 1817 he was in com-
mand of Fort Charlotte at Mobile when trouble again flared up
on the Florida border.33
The vast empire of Spain in America had been shaken with
revolution in the second decade of the nineteenth century. As the
resources of that declining European power were sapped by these
upheavals the authority of Spain in the Floridas was slowly
weakened until it was effective only in the confines of St. Augustine,
Pensacola, and St. Marks. In East Florida slave traders, pirates,
and "patriots" openly flaunted Spanish power. In West Florida
runaway Negro slaves, with the connivance of Indians, actually
took over an old fort on the Apalachicola River and strongly
entrenched themselves. Marauding Indians freely crossed into







Soldiering on the Southern Frontier


Georgia and Alabama for troublemaking purposes, in clear viola-
tion of the Pinckney Treaty of 1795 in which Spain had pledged
to restrain such lawless bands. "A United States naval expedition
in 1817 wiped out the pirates' nest on Amelia Island in East Florida
and a combined army and navy force destroyed the Negro fort
in West Florida, but the Indians were not so easily dealt with)
To check the Indians several United States military posts had been
established along the northern border of Florida, some of which
were virtually inaccessible during certain seasons except by water
from the Gulf of Mexico. Such access, however, entailed the use
of streams passing through Spanish territory and the Governor
of West Florida quite legitimately objected.
In February, 1818, Captain Call was ordered to Pensacola to
secure permission for the passage of United States vessels up
the Escambia River to Fort Crawford. He arrived on February
21 and remained about a week, patiently trying to explain to Gov-
ernor Jos6 Masot that protection of the American frontier had
demanded the establishment of certain posts which were difficult
of access except through Florida waters.34 Stretching the "innocent
passage" doctrines of international law, Call claimed that Spain
must grant innocent passage of Florida rivers to all nations with
whom she was at peace. Masot denied this contention and pointed
out that he had not the least authority to grant such passage with-
out orders from his superiors. Nevertheless Masot agreed to allow
the passage of one ship on the basis of urgent need, insisting that
no precedent was to be derived from his act.35
After the negotiations at Pensacola Call moved on to the Apalachi-
cola River with a convoy bound for Fort Scott, another border post.
The absence of Spanish posts on the Apalachicola precluded the
possibility of Spanish interference there. Meanwhile, Andrew Jack-
son had been directed into the field by Secretary of War John C.
Calhoun with orders allowing him to cross into Florida, if neces-
sary to pursue Indians, but with definite instructions not to molest
Spanish posts.36 Jackson had advanced down the Apalachicola River
to the site of the old Negro fort where, under the direction of Cap-
tain James Gadsden of the engineers, a fort was constructed which
bore Gadsden's name. It was at this point that Call joined Jackson
in mid-March and passed on the latest news from Pensacola. Call
told Jackson of the open admission by Governor Masot that the
Indians were demanding of him either arms and ammunition or


11







12


Richard Keith Call


possession of St. Marks, and that he presumed possession of that
place would be given in the absence of the means of defense. On
receiving this report Jackson informed Secretary Calhoun of his
decision to seize St. Marks no matter who held it.37
On April 8, 1818, Jackson informed Calhoun that the seizure
of St. Marks by his forces was an accomplished fact, and that the
small Spanish garrison had been sent to Pensacola.38 Call remained
at Fort Gadsden until the arrival of a volunteer force from Tennes-
see, and then moved on to St. Marks to join Jackson's forces for
the drive eastward to the Suwannee River, where the towns of
Chief Billy Bowlegs were destroyed. It was on this foray that two
English agents, 'Robert Ambrister and Alexander Arbuthnot, were
seized and executed for their activities in stirring up the Indians,
thus precipitating a brief international crisis. On April 25 Jackson's
force returned to St. Marks to receive news that Indians were being
sheltered in Pensacola and that Governor Masot had reiterated his
denial of free passage through Florida rivers.39 This news resolved
any hesitation Jackson might have had about marching on Pensa-
cola.
Jackson's permission toenter Florida had included a warning not
to molest Spanish military posts. The general claimed, however,
that through John Rhea, a Congressman from Tennessee, the ad-
ministration had later expressed to him the desirability of seizing
all of Florida. Whatever the merits of this controversy may be, by
the middle of May Jackson had this project well under way. A
twenty-day march from St. Marks put him before Pensacola on
May 25. The town fell with virtually no resistance but Fort Bar-
rancas appeared ready for a seige.40 After a one day bombardment
Jackson demanded its surrender, which Governor Masot refused.
That night, under constant fire from the fort, Call and James Gads-
den at Jackson's order supervised the erection of a battery in a
commanding position near Barrancas.41 The "daring courage" of
the young officers won Jackson's admiration and he designated
Gadsden his aide-de-camp and Call his second aide.42
On the second day of the bombardment the morale of Barrancas'
defenders proved inferior to the strength of her walls and they
surrendered to be shipped off to Havana by Jackson. A new govern-
ment was established by fiat and its direction was put in the hands
of military officers headed by Colonel William King as governor.
Call was one of the provisional officials and when evacuation was







Soldiering on the Southern Frontier


ordered he was exercising the functions of Collector of Customs.43
After the establishment of his provisional government Jackson re-
tired again to Nashville where he began to receive intimations that
his course of action would be disavowed by the administration.
On August 5 he asked Call to get depositions and to try to find
"every circumstance" that would prove that "the Spanish governor
aided, abetted, and excited the Indians to war against us." He
confided his feeling that the president was going to throw all re-
sponsibility on him but cautioned Call, "I am able to bear it-but
I wish to be prepared."44 A few days later Jackson received official
word from President James Monroe that West Florida must be
returned to Spain. The general ordered Call to rejoin his staff
at Nashville as soon as possible.45
Calreturned to the Hermitage and in January, 1819, went with
Jackson to Washington to oppose the "combination" which Jackson
thought was forming against him on the basis of his military action
in Florida. By January 27 they were in the capital city witnessing
a torrid debate in the House of Representatives on the Florida
affair, which roared on for twenty-seven days before resulting in
the general's complete triumph. In the Senate, however, an inves-
tigating committee had been formed headed by an anti-Jackson
man, Abner Lacock of Pennsylvania. The committee sat from De-
cember 12, 1818, until February 24, 1819, and examined scores of
witnesses and documents. Among the witnesses was Captain Call.46
Call's brief appearance before the committee was not sensational.
He gave a brief narrative of events which had occurred in Florida
within his personal knowledge, but he later pointed out that he
had not been on Jackson's staff until after the attack on Pensacola
and had little firsthand knowledge of the general's military views
or plans.47 From Call's remarks, however, the committee inferred
that Jackson had made plans for the attack on Pensacola before
learning that hostile Indians were there. Before the report was
published Call left with Jackson for a grand tour of Northern
cities. In Philadelphia Jackson was acclaimed and lionized in mag-
nificent style. His twenty-seven-year-old aide apparently cut a hand-
some figure and produced a most favorable impression among the
young ladies of Philadelphia society. The universality of his charm
seems borne out by the fact that he also became a favorite of the
Reverend Ezra Stiles Ely and his .lady.48
Late in February Jackson's party passed through Baltimore on


13







14


Richard Keith Call


their return to Washington and there got the first glimpse of the
report of the Senate committee. Jackson was infuriated at the un-
favorable report which was given and Call made much of the
fact that the transcript of his testimony was published without his
being allowed to correct it, though he admitted that it was sub-
stantially accurate. The committee had, he insisted, erroneously
interpreted his remarks. Meanwhile, the Senate allowed the report
to die and it was forgotten as news of the signing of the Adams-
Onis Treaty swept the country. Spain had ceded Florida to the
United States.49
Throughout the remainder of 1819 and 1820 Jackson made his
headquarters at the Hermitage near Nashville. His staff lived with
him in the easy relationship of a large family. There Call was taken
to heart as a son by Rachel Jackson and there he mingled on
familiar terms with Sam Houston, Andrew Jackson Donelson, Ro-
bert Butler, James Gadsden, John and Samuel Overton, James C.
Bronaugh, and John H. Eaton. The young ladies of Nashville were
apparently as impressionable as those of Philadelphia and Captain
Call soon became so attentive to a young Irish beauty, Miss Mary
Kirkman, that word got back to some of his Philadelphia friends.
After a visit in the Pennsylvania metropolis James Bronaugh wrote
Call: ". my time was so completely occupied in visiting [,]
attending parties &c. that I really had no time to devote to anything
else. ... I saw Miss C. You have offended her in some way .
& she requested me to inform you that she did not care a [illegi-
ble] for you. She thinks you are not attached to her and
believes that Miss K. of Nashville has won your heart."50
All was not visiting and parties for Captain Call, however. In
the fall of 1819 he acted on behalf of John H. Eaton in an affair
of honor in which that gentleman had become involved with
Colonel Andrew Erwin. General Jackson also kept him busy with
routine staff duties and tasks such as the inspecting of the con-
struction of military roads in Alabama.51 In the summer of 1820
a rather delicate task was assigned to the young officer. The War
Department had received complaints that white squatters were
infringing upon the territory of the Cherokee Nation and it sent
orders to Jackson for their removal. Jackson named Call to head
up a detachment of Cherokee light horse and United States regular
troops to effect the removal. He assured the Secretary of War that
Call would execute the task with mildness and firmness, and ex-


I







Soldiering on the Southern Frontier


pressed the hope that his troops would not be put to such use in
the future.52
The removal of the squatters was a job which occupied Call from
June until September. In the course of the operations he became
quite sympathetic toward the Indians and contemptuous of the
whites. At first, he reported, the Cherokee horsemen were afraid to
act unless they were in the presence of the regulars, so he devised
a policy of keeping the regulars hidden nearby while the Indians
ejected the squatters. He believed that this plan kept up Indian
morale and taught the poaching white respect for Indian authority.
The scope of the work done by this force may be gathered from
the destruction accomplished as reported to Jackson. Totaling the
figures found in the existing letters it appears that Call's little
army destroyed 610 acres of corn, 41 "farms," 18 "plantations,"
1 mill, and numerous homes and fences. When he returned to Nash-
ville in the middle of September he received a commission from
the president raising him from the rank of brevet captain to full
captain in the United States Army.53
In Nashville Call's romantic life began to strike complications
and he did not long remain there. It seems that Mary Kirkman's
parents were bitter enemies of Andrew Jackson, and while they
had nothing against young Call personally, they would not allow
their daughter to marry any proteg6 of Andrew Jackson. Mary
governed her Irish temperament and, for the time being, stood
by her parents' wishes. Call got leave from his sympathetic chief
and decided to return to his relatives in Russellville and attempt to
study law.54 "Aunt" Rachel was fond of both young people and
was grieved by their separation. As Call left for Kentucky she
penned him a farewell note: ". permit me to offer you my
best wishes for your prosperity[.] I had many things to say
which I cannot with this pen. Suffice it to say peac [sic] be with
you going out and coming in."55


L


15














From [Military to Political Life


R ICHARD CALL had spent but a few months at Russell-
ville at his law books when Andrew Jackson recalled him
to duty-again to go to Florida. Jackson, who was being
retired from active service on June 1, 1821, under an act of Congress
which curtailed the military establishment, had been prevailed upon
by President Monroe to accept a commission to receive the surren-
der of Florida from Spain and to become its provisional governor.'
Though Jackson expressed reluctance to accept the assignment and
reiterated a desire to return to his home, Monroe seems to have
acted on the belief that it would be both impolitic and unseemly to
turn the "Old Hero" so abruptly out of government service.
By April 12, 1821, Jackson had completed his arrangements and
informed Secretary of State Adams that he and his wife would de-
part immediately. From Nashville the general and his la4 pro-
ceeded by riverboat to New Orleans, thence along the Gulf to
Blakely, Alabama, on Mobile Bay. From Blakely Jackson was to
proceed to Montpelier, an army cantonment near the junction of
the Alabama and Tombigbee rivers, where he would await notice
of the arrival at Pensacola of Colonel James G. Forbes with the
transfer orders from the Captain-General of Cuba for the Governor
of West Florida. Call was ordered to make the trip from Nashville
overland, bringing the general's horses. Expecting that the overland
journey would be completed first, Jackson authorized Call to receive
the communications from Forbes. The transfer, however, was not to
be so easily accomplished.2
On his leisurely journey down the Mississippi and along the Gulf
coast Jackson met Henry M. Brackenridge of Pennsylvania, a law-
yer, scholar, and linguist, who was also going to Pensacola. This
gentleman had previously been the secretary of a diplomatic mission
to South America, and though Adams regarded him as a "mere
enthusiast" Monroe had been sufficiently impressed to offer him a

[16]







From Military to Political Life


job in Florida. Jackson was also impressed and attached the schol-
arly adventurer to his official family as a legal adviser to assist in
the transfer and in the erection of the new government in Florida.3
Jackson's party arrived at Blakely on April 29 to find that Captain
Call, delayed by bad weather and high rivers, had not yet arived.
While waiting Jackson sent Brackenridge and Dr. James C. Bro-
naugh, his personal physician and confidante, to Governor Jos6
Callava of West Florida to announce his mission to effect the trans-
fer. About a week was passed by the remainder of the party in
Blakely before the arrival of Call. On the return of Brackenridge
and Bronaugh they proceeded to Montpelier where another delay
of some five weeks ensued.4
From Montpelier Call was ordered on May 11 to Pensacola to
await the arrival of the tardy Colonel Forbes on the United States
sloop of war Hornet from Havana. Call was authorized to enter into
any preliminary negotiations which Callava might be willing to
entertain. His instructions were detailed in describing the subjects
which he might discuss with Callava, but had a postscript reading,
"The real object is to be informed of the real feeling of the Governor
and whether he is a coward full of duplicity or a candid honorable
man."5 On May 15 at ten o'clock Call was granted his first interview
with the governor and found it a most agreeable experience. He ob-
served Callava to be "a remarkably fine looking man." He was a
large, fair, blonde-haired gentleman of about forty years of age,
possessed of noble bearing. "I believe him to be a frank, ingenuous
soldier," Call told Jackson, "and that every confidence may be placed
in the professions which he has made."6
.Besides opening preliminary negotiations for the transfer Call had
been charged with obtaining permission for the deposit of American
supplies in Pensacola and with arranging the concentration of Span-
ish troops for the evacuation. He was soon able to report to Jackson
that Callava had designated a warehouse for supplies and a Spanish
detachment to guard it, and had agreed to bringing the garrison at
St. Marks to Pensacola for transport with the Pensacola garrison
to Havana. Although the governor had denied having any power
to enter into preliminary negotiations concerning the actual sur-
render, he had assured Call that he would grant every facility for
prompt occupation by Jackson as soon as the orders arrived from
the Captain-General. On May 20 Call returned to Montpelier with
the news that the Hornet had at last left Havana with Forbes aboard.


17







18


Richard Keith Call


Immediately Jackson sent James Gadsden to Pensacola to meet
Colonel Forbes and empowered him to make arrangements for the
receipt of the province.7
As Jackson cooled his heels in Montpelier, where on June 1 his
military retirement became effective, President Monroe was filling
the appointive offices in the government of the new territory. Jack-
son had submitted a list of his own recommendations for the Florida
posts but Monroe ignored it, and on May 23 the Secretary of State
forwarded to Jackson a list of the president's appointees. While this
list was enroute, James Gadsden was ordered back to Montpelier
and Call replaced him at Pensacola. Jackson had deemed Gadsden
more valuable to him in Montpelier and had directed him to trans-
fer all his powers to Call.8 When Gadsden arrived in the Alabama
village he found Jackson in a perfect rage: ". not one of those I
recommended is appointed." Among the recommendations, Call had
been named by his former general as a likely candidate for the
office of Secretary of West Florida.9 Instead Monroe had named
a partisan of William H. Crawford, George Walton of Georgia, to
that post. In reference to Call the president told Jackson, "It would
have given me pleasure to have placed the latter near you, but, on
great consideration, I thought it better to pursue the course
I have done. Mr. Walton was strongly supported by the two Senators
from Georgia. I could do nothing else for him, and Mr. Call
was already provided for."'0 Call had been provided for by being
retained in the army with the rank of captain, after its reduction on
June 1.
Jackson's nephew, A. J. Donelson, wrote to a friend, "I am sorry
to see that Call is not secretary. This disappointment is not a little
vexing to the general." Rachel Jackson wrote to one of her brothers,
"There never was a man more disappointed than the General has
been.... he has not the power to appoint one of his friends; which
. was in part the reason of his coming.""l But the old general
was not beaten yet. He told Dr. Bronaugh, ". say to my friend
Call not to despond-that I am determined to try my influence in
his behalf, next Congress, and any thing I have in my power to
give him, will be."12
As Jackson was penning this note in Montpelier the Hornet ar-
rived at Pensacola with Colonel Forbes and the transfer order from
the Captain-General of Cuba. Call immediately went to Montpelier
with the news and a letter from Governor Callava listing the troops







From Military to Political Life


and persons to be evacuated.13 On June 12 Call returned to Pensa-
cola with Jackson's authorization to receive St. Marks ad- o fimake
all arrangements for the evacuation of Spanish personnel. Another
delay ensued at this point when the Spanish governor insisted that
the cannon were not part of the fortifications and were to be car-
ried off by the troops to Havana. Jackson instructed Call to stand
by Secretary Adams' orders not to surrender the cannon, but he
instructed Call to inventory the cannon and give receipts for them
while keeping the matter open for possible future settlement. This
Call was able to do. Jackson directed Call also to require the Span-
ish to give receipts for the transportation and supplies given them
which were not specifically required by the treaty of cession.14
Growing impatient with the long delay, on June 15 Jackson moved
with his troops to a place only fifteen miles from Pensacola. On June
28 he sent Rachel on into the town to occupy a house which Gover-
nor Callava had allowed Dr. Bronaugh to take over for Jackson.
Call, as well as Bronaugh and Brackenridge who were inventorying
the archives and attending to other legal details of the transfer,
was housed also at this residence, which he described as an ancient
building on the plaza. After several more weeks of negotiation and
delay the arrangements were finally completed for effecting the
change of flags on the morning of July 17, 1821.15
Pensacola in 1821 was by no means a magnificent city. It had all
the unpleasant airs of a boom town. Land speculators, swindlers,
gamblers, soldiers of fortune-all were swarming in, swelling the
population to an estimated four thousand persons-three times the
ancient city's normal size. There were no brick pavements and the
incessant rains conspired with the heavy traffic to turn the streets
into quagmires. There were no stone houses in the town and Rachel
Jackson observed that all the buildings looked "old as time." Call
observed that the good woman, who wrote to her friends that she
was in a "heathen land," muttered much of "Jerusalem" and "Baby-
lon."16
At half-past six on the morning of July 17 Jackson entered Pensa-
cola and was welcomed to breakfast at the governor's house by
Rachel and by Call, Bronaugh, Brackenridge, and Forbes. At ten
o'clock the troops of Spain and the United States were drawn up
on the plaza and Call, with other officers of the United States Army
and Navy, escorted Governor Jackson between the saluting ranks to
the Government House. Callava greeted his American successor in


19







20


Richard Keith Call


the court room and the formalities were completed. There Jackson
and Call for the United States, and Callava and Jose Cruzat for
Spain, signed the process verbal.17 The entire party then passed again
into the plaza where the Spanish colors were lowered and the stars
and stripes hoisted, "with the tune of long may it wave, o'er the
land of the free and the home of the brave.' Thus Florida became
a United States Territory as naval guns in the harbor boomed a
salute.18
Immediately Jackson, who had been vested by his government
with all the indefinable power of the Spanish governors of Florida
and the Captain-General of Cuba, except the powers of taxation
and land granting, began to organize the new government. Henry
Brackenridge was named to the post of Alcalde of Pensacola, and
Call became a member of the town council. Since none of Monroe's
appointees had yet arrived, Jackson temporarily organized the
government with his old staff, making Call the acting Secretary of
West Florida. Bronaugh was put at the head of a Board of Health.19
The outward signs of the "Americanization" of Pensacola were
evident. On the evening of the day of exchange Andrew Jackson
Alien opened the Jacksonian Commonwealth Theatre and played to
capacity crowds. Across the square from the theater, E. Hathway
opened the Eagle Tavern, which boasted hot and cold baths and "an
elegant ten pin alley." In August a printing press arrived and the
Floridian began weekly publication just in time to notify the public
of the arrival of Victor Pepin's equestrian circus. Though cultural
developments were not so rapid as some others, within a year VW.
Hassell Hunt's circulating library was open and L. Patrick's reading
room boasted files of forty to fifty newspapers "and other periodical
literary publications."20
Some of the changes of the new regime were highly commendable
from Rachel Jackson's viewpoint. Observing that "really a change
was necessary," she approved of the Sunday "blue laws" imposed by
her husband and noted that shops were now closed, fiddling and
dancing had ceased, and cursing was not heard on the Sabbath.
Though she thought "the Lord had a controversy" with the inhabi-
tants, she obviously enjoyed the role of first lady. The local Catholic
priest "seems a divine looking man," the stern puritan lady wrote.
He and the former Spanish officials, and French, Spanish, and
American ladies were feted at her table, and she boasted, "I have
as pleasant a house as any in town."21


I







From Military to Political Life 21 /

Shortly after the transfer Captain Call formed a partnership in
law with Henry M. Brackenridge. Their notice in the Floridian
stated that they were ready to practice in the various courts of
West Florida and the Mobile region of Alabama.22 The arrival in
mid-August of George Walton, the secretary appointed by Monroe
for West Florida, freed Call for his law practice. In this profession
he soon became involved in the most controversial dispute of
Jackson's governorship.
The heirs of Don Nicholas Maria Vidal retained Brackenridge and
Call to institute suit against John Innerarity, the debtor of the
Vidal estate, and instituted proceedings to get the papers relating
to the administration of the estate. An order was delivered to Do-
mingo Sousa, a Spanish officer holding the papers, to surrender
them. In his capacity as alcalde Brackenridge was allowed to exam-
ine the papers, but Sousa refused to turn them over to him. The
mild-mannered Brackenridge then withdrew and informed Jackson.
Sousa meanwhile sent the documents to former Governor Callava
whom Jackson believed to be conspiring with Innerarity to defraud
the Vidal heirs. Jackson promptly jailed the former governor when
he, too, refused to surrender the papers, thus precipitating a mild
international incident.23
At the time of these proceedings Call was sick and not able to
take part in the interview with Sousa. Call was more prone to
direct action a la Jackson than to Brackenridge's regard for legal
niceties, and had he been present it seems improbable that Sousa
would have been permitted to retain the documents in question.
In later years Call was bitterly critical of his former partner for
not seizing the papers when he inspected them. In Call's opinion
it was the "weakness and folly" of Brackenridge that got Jackson
involved in the Vidal affair.24 He regretted the incident as much
for Callava's sake as for Jackson's. In the memory of his daughter,
Call never criticized any act of Jackson in Florida except his jailing
of Callava whom he described as "a gallant, high-toned gentleman,
as much so as Gen. Jackson himself."25
The trials and disappointments of the Florida post weighed
heavily on Jackson's health. Call thought that the governorship took
as great a toll of his strength as had the Indian campaigns. By
October Jackson decided that his task had been completed and he
could return to the Hermitage. Florida had been received and a
provisional government had been established; more than this he had







22


Richard Keith Call


not promised to do. On October 4 the officers and citizens tendered
their governor a farewell dinner, and he took his leave of Florida
on October 8.26 Richard Call sent a letter after his departing patron
thanking him in effusive terms for the generous friendship and
favors bestowed upon him. "To have followed your fortune," he
assured Jackson, "to have been tutered by your councils and hon-
oured with your confidence is the proudest and happyest recollec-
tion of my life, and ... be assured my gratitude will only terminate
with my existence."27
"Your gratitude ... shews the godlike virtue of a heart suscepta-
ble of friendship," Jackson replied. He recalled Call's loyalty in
1814 and commented that from that time "my opinion was formed
of you." The old general expressed his regret that the president
still had found no civilian appointment for the young captain, but
urged him to turn this neglect to profit by applying himself to the
improvement and development of his mind.28
Jackson had more interesting matter of which to write than ap-
pointments or compliments, however. On the trip back to Nashville
he and Rachel had met Mary Kirkman and her uncles on their way
to New Orleans. From this meeting Jackson learned that Mary was
to tarry in Natchez a few days while her uncles inspected nearby
lands. He advised Call, ".. there is but one course you can pur-
sue-that is to see her either at Natchez or New Orleans. Take
her to yourself, your industry and the aid of your friends will en-
able you to support her."
In this fatherly vein Jackson continued, "I need not say to
you that as far as I have the means it will be afforded you-and
industry and economy will do anything. ... I would not hesitate to
see her .. and put an end to the pain full situation of you both."29
Another letter followed within two weeks: 'You and Miss Mary
ought to forget each other, for ever, or at once marry." A month
later came another message: ". receive her to your bosom-and
protect her from all the fury of an exasperated & infuriated mother."
Jackson assured Call that Mary still cared for him and would "no
doubt" marry him if he were to see her. "Despond not," he wrote,
"as long as I have property it will be cheerfully divided with you."30
"Aunt" Rachel wrote an awkward, emotional account of the meeting
with Mary: "We met in the roade betwene Florenc and Nashville.
I cold not Help Exclaimeing 0 I am so sorry. She caut my hand
as tho she Expected something from mine. Her Uncle came so







From Military to Political Life 23

close to us & she apeard a stricken Dear May you be happy
is the sincere wish warm from my Heart who thinks on you as a
son or younger Brother."31
Call was appreciative of the information which his old chief
sent even though he did not act upon it. He assured Jackson that
"... on my success in this affair my happiness in life depends. The
old People may annoy me for some time but if I live the period shall
yet arrive when I can look on them and their opposition with the
contempt they merit. They have indeed given me much unhappi-
ness but they shall learn that I have a spirit not easily subdued."32
Jackson was correct in his estimates of Mary Kirkman's feelings
toward Richard Call though he may have misjudged her willing-
ness to break with her family at that time. On her journey to New
Orleans Mary wrote back to her mother, "As to happiness, I don't
expect much as long as I remain in my present situation. I will not
pretend to deny that my feelings are not changed. I am and must
continue attached to Capt C." Mary Kirkman was not yet of age,
however, and in closing she added, "Still it is a satisfaction to me
and a duty I owe my parents to obey them as far as I can."33 Wed-
ding bells were not yet to ring for Mary and her Captain Call.
After Jackson quit the territory of Florida in October the govern-
ment devolved upon the secretaries in Pensacola and St. Augustine.
George Walton was the acting governor in the former place and
his actions won Call's general approval. Call wrote Jackson that
the government was running quite smoothly and that Walton had
performed his duties "beyond my expectations."3" Judge Bracken-
ridge, Call's law partner, had a different reaction, however. The
judge declared that since Jackson had left he had been obliged to
do everything for Walton. "His companions are persons of no char-
acter, or the subalterns of the army with whom he passes almost
every night over the gaming table He is in truth an object of
universal contempt."35
Jackson had hoped to have a friend, Colonel William King, suc-
ceed him in the governorship and some of his followers in Pensa-
cola got up a petition to that effect. President Monroe again turned
a deaf ear to Jackson's desires, however, and named William P.
DuVal to the post. DuVal, a former residentof Kentucky;,was- at ,
the time of his appointment United States Judge for East Florida.36
HI-w-aTe first civil governor of Florida under the act of Congress
of March 30, 1822, which also provided for a Legislative Council







24


Richard Keith Call


to be appointed by the president. Call was named to membership
in both the first and second councils.37 His career as an army officer
was brought to a close about the same time that he launched upon
this new phase .of political- activity. He submitted his resignation
from the service in January, 1822, and was immediately given leave
until its acceptance.38 After a brief trip to New Orleans for his
health he settled down in his office to go at law with new life. He
wrote Rachel Jackson that Pensacola was a fine place to study for
he found no distractions there; but, with an eye to the future, he
told her to let all the girls know that he was becoming a very
clever fellow and had developed a strong partiality for western
ladies. In a year or two, he warned, they had best watch out for a
dashing young Floridian in search of a wife.39
The new career which Call had chosen for himself was not one :
in which he was expertly versed. There is no indication that he
had ever studied law except spasmodically and without direction.
SNo records have come to light to indicate that he attended any law
school or read in any lawyer's office before coming to Florida. Un-
der the circumstances it seems highly probable that his partnership
with Brackenridge was partially in the nature of an apprenticeship.
_Fortunately for him little knowledge of law was necessary in the
primitive courts of frontier territories where the judges were not
infrequently less well versed in the law than the attorneys arguing
before them. Call probably felt that his self-directed study and his
association with Brackenridge made him the equal of any other
member of the Florida bar.
The change of governments in Florida brought in its wake a
great flood of litigation which kept throngs of lawyers busy for a
number of years. Cases connected with land titles and with claims
against the United States were the most numerous and Call was
engaged in many cases of both types. Less than two months after
Jackson had left the territory Call boasted, "I believe there is
scarcely a suit on the docket in which I am not engaged, and my
practice even at this time promises me a competent support."40
There are few descriptions of Call's physical appearance, but
those which do remain stress his temperament as much as his visual
features. Friend and foe agree that he had a terrible temper and
was an imperious and commanding man. A friendly observer has
pictured him as tall and erect, with fair personal appearance and
a bright and intelligent eye. He was noted for the melody and







From Military to Political Life


25


power of his voice and for his dynamic and ostentatious manner.
We have already noted that he cut a dashing figure in female so-
ciety. Even a "cracker" who had served under him in the military
observed, ". .. he is the powerfullest man among* the women that
I ever seen." His critics saw him as a man of intense ambition, ex-
clusive selfishness, lofty and arrogant pride, and "vanity beyond
conception." His daughter observed that "inferiors" rebelled against
his imperious manner.41
As Call rose in prominence as a lawyer and politician his ardent '-
temperament not infrequently led to his making enemies among
important men. There can be little doubt that he was an ambitious
and acquisitive man strongly desirous of advancing his material
wealth and personal prestige. His opponents, however, seized upon
all the weak points in his character and painted them large. They
belittled in particular his competence as a lawyer. According to one
of his detractors Call had entered law practice after reading the
first volume of Blackstone the first time. This critic claimed that
after winning his first case Call was ready to cast aside his friend
Brackenridge, "who kindly took him as a student and partner."42
Whatever his personal defects may have been, Call was becoming
a successful frontier lawyer and politician. His friends found him
to be as able and enthusiastic a partisan as his enemies a tenacious
and bitter opponent. Among the rough spirits of the new territory
his outspoken manner and directness of action won many followers.
As his law practice flourished and he took part in the Legislative
Councils of 1822 and 1823, Call more and more felt the attraction
of political life reaching out to him. Both he and his partner Brack-
enridge had been appointed to the first Council and before it :
convened they dissolved their partnership on July 15, 1822.43 Brack-
enridge, however, never sat in the Council, for in the same month
he was appointed United States Judge for West Florida to preside '
over the Superior Court at Pensacola. In the Council, which met in
Pensacola in August, Call came into conflict with Dr. Bronaugh, its
presiding officer, and Joseph M. White. The latter was-an-able
lawyer, but-was viewed as something of an interloper owing to the
fact that he had not been a resident of -Florida until after his ap-
pointment 'by- Monroe. Throughout the territorial period White_
and Call were to be on opposite sides of virtually every important
political issue, and Brackenridge eventually became a staunch
friend of White.







26


Richard Keith Call


At the first session of the Council White introduced a measure
which would have given the vote to military personnel in Florida.
This was seen as a thinly veiled means of promoting Bronaugh's
ambition to go to Congress, the theory being that the troops, who
outnumbered the rest of the voting population, would support
Bronaugh who was a favorite among them. Call took a stand as a
defender of the rights of the civilian population, insisting that the
measure would virtually disfranchise them. Despite his opposition
the measure passed the Council by the vote of its presiding officer,
Bronaugh, who acted to break a tie.44
Bronaugh appeared to be Call's major stumbling block to politi-
cal advancement, and because of long intimate army association
the doctor was closer to Andrew Jackson than was Call. When Call
made exploratory inquiries as to the advisability of seeking the
post-oLDelegate to Congress, Jackson sought to discourage him. He
warned that Call should wait a few years to secure his own fortunes
before entering public life. By waiting, he advised, he would assure
his financial position "and a standing in public opinion, that can-
not be shaken by every breeze. ... On the other hand .. the serv-
ices of every man belongs to his country when that country requires
it. -45
From Richmond came a letter in a similar vein from old Daniel
Call, Richard's uncle. He heartily applauded his leaving military
life but warned that politics could be as profitless as soldiering if
it were to become an obsession with him. "You will readily perceive
from all this," he told his nephew, "that I am of opinion you had
better pursue your own business, and let that of the public alone.
If you go to Congress you will infallibly lose your practice and .
spend the best part of your life in ennui and your old age in pov-
erty."4 Call's passion for political advancement was discouraged,
but only temporarily. James Bronaugh died suddenly of yellow
fever in September and Joseph M. Hernandez, a Spanish resident
of St. Augustine, was sent to Washington for the closing session of
the Seventeenth Congress.
Meanwhile Call was busy trying to assure "a standing in public
opinion." After dissolving his law connection with Brackenridge he
had formed a new partnership with Richard J. Easter, an old army
crony. Call maintained the firm's Pensacola office while Easter hung
out their shingle in Mobile.47 Late in 1823 another young man,
Benjamin D. Wright of Pennsylvania, joined the partnership. In







From Military to Political Life


the same year honors were added to Call's name when he became
a ~geral. On January 28 President Monroe commissioned him
brigadier general of the militia of West Florida.48
SThe election for Delegate to Congress was scheduled for June
of 1823 and speculation was rife for months in advance about who
the candidates would be. In April a public meeting of citizens in
Pensacola placed Call's name in nomination. The group discussed
no great issues of national or local importance and adopted no plat-
form or party name. The only issue was a sectional one. The Pensa-
cola citizens were backing Call because he was from West Florida
and they opposed the re-election of the incumbent, who was from
East Florida. In the East candidates were nominated on much the
same basis. Hernandez was most popular in St. Augustine and
Alexander Hamilton was a close second. In Fernandina the favorite
son was Farquhar Bethune. All four men made the race.49
/ The factionalism of the Florida political scene reflected the na-
tional political picture. This was the twilight of the so-called "era
of good feelings" in the United States and there had been no clearly
defined national parties since the death of the Federalist party after
_the election of 1816. Factions, most of them claiming nominal al-
legiance to the Jeffersonian Republican party, dominated the scene.
Behind such names as Jackson, Adams, Calhoun, Clay, Webster,
and Crawford gathered the politically conscious men of the day,
seeking to build personal political organizations dedicated to the
elevation of their respective heroes. Personalism and sectionalism
were the dominant cohesive forces inrthese political factions, and
the picture was even more sharply focused in this direction in Flori-
da. It is important that the formative years of Call's political life
were the years of this American one-party era in which factions .
struggled for power and place, and party loyalty and great issues
of principle played secondary roles. This may help one to under-
stand Call's frequent hostility to party regularity and his recurring
distrust of party organization.
The second session of the territorial Legislative Council began
in May at St. Augustine and was still in session when the congres-
sional election was held. Call played a dominant role in that session,
holding the floor more often than did any other single member. He
took the lead in legislation to organize the territorial judiciary and
was instrumental in securing the passage of the act for the estab-
lishment of a permanent seat of government. His hard-working role


27







28


Richard Keith Call


won him the admiration of the East Florida Herald, which ven-
tured the opinion that should Call be elected to Congress East
Florida might rest assured that its interests would be well repre-
sented.50
In East Florida, as was expected, the vote in the congressional
election was about evenly split between Hernandez and Hamilton,
with Call receiving only six votes of the 543 cast. In the West, how-
ever, it was a different story. Call was the only candidate from
that section and received every vote cast, giving him a total of 490.
Had the East been united he might have been beaten. Coinci-
dentally, in October came the news that the Tennessee legislature
had elected Andrew Jackson to the United States Senate.51
The Eighteenth Congress to which Call and Jackson had been
elected was to convene in December, 1823. Late in October Call
set out from Pensacola and met Jackson at Rogersville, Tennessee,
from which place they proceeded to Washington in the company
of John Henry Eaton, the senior senator from Tennessee.52 In the
capital Eaton directed his friends to the establishment which he
had patronized for the past ten years operated by his good friends
the O'Neales. Jackson was quite pleased with the arrangements
and wrote to Rachel that he, Call, and Eaton were "private and
comfortably accomodated in a worthy family."53 Jackson appreci-
ated the comradeship and attentions of both young men, but Eaton
made the greater impression on him and he confided to Rachel
that the latter had been "more than a son."54
The Call-Jackson-Eaton trio had been a few days late in arriving
in Washington, and though Call presented his credentials in the
House of Representatives on December 3 he was not sworn in and
seated until December 5. Four days later he moved that the Com-
mittee on Public Lands be instructed to look into the expediency
of granting a tract of land to the Territory of Florida for a seat of
government. This ultimately resulted in the passage of an act grant-
ing a quarter section of land for a territorial capital.55 Before the
end of 1823 Call had also initiated inquiries which resulted in bills
excluding foreign wreckers and fishermen from Florida waters, and
authorizing the laying out of certain public roads in Florida.56
Andrew Jackson spoke in the Senate only five times during this
session, and on two of these occasions he was supporting the Florida
road-building program. He saw no constitutional objections to the
Congress building roads in federal territories, and he justified the







From Military to Political Life


29


Florida roads as defense measures and aids to settlement.57 Call
went further than Jackson in his support of internal improvement
projects and became an enthusiastic adherent of the internal im-
provement bloc in Congress. In the House debate on his road bill
the Florida delegate was supported by Westerners and representa-
tives from New York and Pennsylvania.58 Though he had no vote
Call, in turn, gave his oratorical support to other measures of
internal improvement in the states.
Call was interested in canals as well as roads. In the debate on
the passage of a bill to open a Wabash-Erie canal through public
lands, Call came out strongly for the measure. He proposed to
amend the bill, which originally gave a ninety-foot right of way to
the canal company, to grant "the square of a mile" from the public
lands on each side the entire length of the route. He defended his
amendment as being in principle the same as assistance to a public
road, and noted that a similar grant had been made for a road in
Ohio. John Test of Indiana, Andrew Stewart of Pennsylvania, and
William McLean of Ohio all backed Call's amendment. As had Call,
they stressed the point that such a grant would generally enhance
land values in Indiana. The amendment received lengthy attention
on May 8 and 11 but failed to be incorporated into the final bill.59
Call's work in behalf of the land grant for the Wabash-Erie canal
was directly related to his efforts to advance the interests of Florida,
for at the time of the debate his bill for a canal from the St. Johns
River to St. Augustine, Florida, was pending in the House. The
amendment to the Wabash-Erie bill would have set a precedent
for granting to the Florida canal similar tracts. This Florida canal
bill was passed through the House without land-grant features but
failed in the Senate.60
Two other bills of some importance which Call sponsored were
approved during the first session of the Eighteenth Congress. One
concerned a reform of the judiciary of the Territory of Florida. The
act of 1822 had vested the judicial power in two Superior Courts
at Pensacola and St. Augustine and such inferior courts as the Legis-
lative Council might create. These courts were to have jurisdiction
in criminal cases, exclusive jurisdiction in capital cases, and original
jurisdiction in civil cases of $100 or more arising under the terri-
torial laws. Each court was also to have such jurisdiction under
federal law as was possessed by federal district courts, appeals to be
taken in federal cases direct to the United States Supreme Court







30


Richard Keith Call


under the same rules as governed appeals from United States Cir-
cuit Courts.61 One objection immediately voiced to the 1822 law
was that it spelled out no right of appeal from the Superior Courts
in territorial cases.62 The bill sponsored by Call divided the territory
into three Superior Court districts, one centered in Pensacola, one
in St. Augustine, and one in the new seat of government, which was
to be Tallahassee. The judges of these three Superior Courts were
also now empowered to sit annually at Tallahassee as a Court of
Appeals having appellate jurisdiction over the Superior Courts and
the territorial courts. Appeals could be made from the Court of
Appeals to the United States Supreme Court in all cases.63 Marshals
and district attorneys were to be named for each Superior Court.
The day after the act received the president's signature Call's young
law partner Benjamin D. Wright was named United States Dis-
trict Attorney for the Tallahassee district.64
The second bill of importance was one which granted land to
actual settlers in Florida who could prove habitation and Icultiva-
.tion as of February 22, 1819. The amount of such grants was not
to exceed 640 acres to each settler who was over twenty-one years
old and the head of a family. The grants were for the benefit of
squatters and were not to include any claims based on Spanish or
English grants.65 This measure was approved May 26 and was the
last successful bill introduced by Call at the first session. Though
Call is due much credit for his able advocacy of the interests of
Florida, he should not be given full credit for originating the legis-
lation which he introduced and saw passed. Virtually every meas-
ure with which he was connected had been requested by the two
Legislative Councils of which he had been a member or by the
Council of 1824.66
Despite the activity in Congress the weeks in Washington were
not all work. Call took his meals at O'Neale's with Eaton and Jack-
son and there came to know the effervescent and attractive Mrs.
Margaret Timberlake, the married daughter of the O'Neales, who
quite often attended the table of the congressional trio. He also met
Prince Achille Murat and spoke persuasively to him of Florida as
a region in which he ought to settle.67 Call was an optimistic, en-
thusiastic promoter, and impressed many, including John Branch,
William Wirt, and the Marquis de Lafayette, with the boundless
opportunities opening in the Florida territory.
Call enjoyed the sessions of Congress almost as much as the social


I







From Military to Political Life


life of the capital. He was entranced by the oratory of the seasoned
politicians with whom he brushed shoulders daily. In the House
Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John Randolph of Roanoke im-
pressed the young delegate. One gathers from his admiration of
senatorial eloquence that many hours were also spent in the Senate
galleries. Thomas Hart Benton drew his praise as a senator who
possessed a superior mind.68
Though the Congress held Call's fascinated interest as a school
of oratory and debate, the Floridian found time to pass interesting
hours with his colleagues in the barroom beneath the legislative
chambers. There he heard bold tales about the beautiful Mrs. Tim-
berlake.69 Popularly known as Peggy, she was a vivacious young
lady who had grown up in her father's inn, where Call resided, and
had married a young naval officer who was frequently absent on
long cruises. She was a coquettish, impudent girl who was known
as a spoiled favorite of all the gentlemen of her father's tavern.
Having grown up in such surroundings in a lusty era in the raw
young capital, it is not surprising that her conduct was unpuritani-
cal. Indeed, positively scandalous tales were circulated about her
and she had never been accepted in "good society." Despite her
beauty and a certain charming wit she was regarded as a conniver
with persistent and unscrupulous ambition. When angered her fear-
ful temper was said to lead her into "the conversational methods of
a fishwife, and a habit of unbridled profanity."70
Ben Perley Poore, a contemporary observer, compared Washing-
ton society in the first half of the nineteenth century with that of
England in the seventeenth century and judged extravagance and
recklessness to be characteristic of both. Moral laxity was seen to
be widely prevalent in the city on the Potomac where Peggy Tim-
berlake moved at her enchanting and unscrupulous best.71 In this
context "good society" chattered eagerly about the activities of
the tavern-keeper's daughter and the senator from Tennessee, John
H. Eaton. Such stories came to Call so frequently that he soon
formed the' opinion that the lady was a loose woman on intimate
terms with more notables than the senator from Tennessee. That
Call always held to this conviction thereafter is quite clear. Beyond
public gossip, what was involved in the shaping of this opinion, if
anything, is not clear. All the documentary evidence bearing on
this phase of Call's life was produced five years later, after the
death of John Timberlake, Peggy's husband, and her marriage to


31









Eaton. At that time Peggy was the center of a controversy raging
around the unbending refusal of Washington society to accept her
even though her husband, Eaton, was then the Secretary of War.
Consequently, we must take into account possible errors on the part
of all who reduced their memories of 1824 to writing in 1829. We
are, however, certain of Call's attitude toward Peggy's morals and
of the fact that relations between them were far from cordial. Call
himself declared, "Mrs. T. and myself quarreled so frequently, I
cannot remember the time or the cause of our first disagreement."72
No matter what the state of affairs between them may have been,
it seems unlikely that two persons possessed of the mercurial tem-
peraments of Call and Mrs. Timberlake could have long coexisted
peaceably. On one occasion which Call has noted he refused blunt-
ly to be seen with her in public and she flew into a rage; on an-
other she charged him with looking at her too hard at the dinner
table, saying she feared that Eaton might notice. All in all, it must
have been a tense household in which Call, Jackson, and Eaton
lived. It may be that even at this time, while her husband still
lived, Peggy had set her cap for Eaton and feared that her free
and easy ways might weaken her hold on him or that Call's opinions
about her unworthiness might influence him. Call, on his part, be-
Jived that even at this early date Eaton and Peggy had decided to
marry.73 He believed, too, that this woman would be the ruin of the
man whose friendship Jackson prized so highly. Accordingly, Call
had several conversations with Eaton about his association with
Peggy, on one occasion rebuking him for having taken Jackson and
himself to "a house which he had brought into disrepute." In this
exchange Eaton denied any impropriety in his friendship with Peggy
and angrily challenged Call, since he thought so badly of her,
"Why do you not try her yourself?"
"You do not give me an opportunity, Sir," Call replied, "but if
you will go to Baltimore for three days, on your return I will make
a faithful report to you."74 Call gives no indication that this arrange-
ment was agreed upon, but Jackson, who was convinced of Peggy's
virtue, declared positively that one day in the spring of 1824
Peggy came to him in tears. She bitterly complained that "Call had
grossly insulted her, by making to her and urging upon her, very
indelicate propositions, and attempting to inforce them by great
rudeness, which she was compelled to extricate herself from, by
seizing a pair of tongs, or shovel. .. ." Jackson was incensed and,


32


Richard -Keith Call







From Military to Political Life


after quieting her, promised to speak to Call and put an end to
such conduct. As Jackson remembered the incident, he severely lec-
tured Call, who admitted the incident but insisted that Mrs. Timber-
lake had resisted from a sense of mock modesty.75 Call declared
that he had "no such recollection" of an event such as Jackson re-
membered but admitted that he quarreled with Peggy often.76
We shall possibly never know precisely what the truth is. Was the
story to Jackson a figment of Peggy's imagination to discredit Call
as a source of stories about her? Did Peggy lead Call into an inci-
dent to exhibit her faithfulness to Eaton? Was the incident arranged
by Eaton and Peggy to gain Jackson as a defender of their friend-
ship? Or, despite all the contrary evidence, was Peggy truly inno-
cent of any wrongdoing and was she actually telling the truth about
an encounter with Call? No matter how we may speculate on Peggy
and her activities, the overwhelming volume of evidence seems to
indicate that she was not innocent. Even her defender in the cabi-
net crisis of 1829, Martin Van Buren, thought little of her character.77
Though we may not go so far as John Floyd of Virginia who as-
serted, "I know, myself, that all is true which has been said of her,"
about the most charitable judgment of Peggy Timberlake which
can be made is that of historian J. Franklin Jameson: "It is possible
that she was chaste; it is certain that she was vulgar."78
When the session of Congress was about to end in May, 1824,
Call again had a serious talk with Eaton about Peggy's bad influence
upon his reputation, and he thought he had convinced Eaton to
leave her and return to Tennessee with Jackson and himself. Peggy,
however, prevailed upon Eaton to stay, and when the session ended
Jackson and Call made their way back to Nashville without him.
In Tennessee Call talked with Eaton's brother-in-law, William B.
Lewis, urging him to write to Eaton and use every effort to get him
back home. Lewis agreed at the time and said that he even prepared
a letter, but he did not mail it when he heard Eaton was planning
to return anyway.79 For the time being Call considered his duty
done and put the Eaton-Timberlake affair in the back of his mind.
In Nashville Call resumed his courtship of Mary Kirkman. This
young lady, now almost two years past her twenty-first birthday,
had decided to break with her parents and marry the thirty-two-year-
old militia general from Florida. Andrew Jackson offered the Hermi-
tage to the young couple and plans were made for the marriage there
on July 15. Call informed Mrs. Kirkman that he would call for her


33







34


Richard Keith Call


daughter at eleven o'clock in the morning. Her dwelling was on the
public square in Nashville and when Call drew up before the door
in a carriage the interested neighbors quickly gathered around, for
the courtship had been as talked of as the Jackson-Kirkman feud
with which it was connected. When the embarrassed couple ap-
peared they were hailed by the crowd and drove off to the Hermi-
tage as handkerchiefs waved and good wishes were shouted.80
After the marriage the Kirkmans voiced threats of disinheritance
and Jackson tried to intervene to patch up the quarrel. In Mrs.
Kirkman, however, the old general found an unyielding enemy.
When he called upon her she refused to discuss the matter with
him and ordered him from her home at pistol point. For one of
the few times in his life Andrew Jackson retreated.81
During July and August the Calls remained in Tennessee. Despite
his insistence that Florida was a fine place in which to live, Call
managed to avoid it in the summer months whenever possible. This
was the period generally referred to as the "sickly season" because
of the occurrence of malarial and yellow fevers. In September, how-
ever, he returned for a brief visit with his constituents, leaving Mary
in Tennessee. In Pensacola Call busied himself with preparations
for the next session of Congress. He wrote the Secretary of the
Navy Samuel L. Southard to hurry the survey of Pensacola harbor
so that the plans might be used in a bid for a navy yard to be lo-
cated there. He also urged Calhoun, the Secretary of War, to
strengthen the army garrison at Pensacola which was to be used
in building the newly authorized road to St. Augustine.82
On Saturday, September 18, a committee of citizens held a pub-
lic dinner for Call in celebration of his return to the territory. A
respectable number of gentlemen gathered "to participate in the
general joy" and to toast their guest, a man whose popularity "is
the popularity which follows; not that which is sought after." After
a number of toasts Call honored his hosts with a "handsome" and
"concise" address. After the young politician's schooling in the halls
of Congress, however, it seems a safe bet that his address was more \
handsome than concise.83
Call remained in Florida less than a month. He took leave of
Pensacola on Sunday, October 3, and travelled directly to the
Hermitage. There he and Mary, with Andrew and Rachel Jackson,
set out on their trip to Washington. The two couples boarded to-
gether but not at the O'Neale tavern.84 This was a presidential


I







From Military to Political Life 35
election year and Jackson was figuring prominently in the race.
Jackson was, in fact, the leading candidate and Washington was
agog with speculation over the outcome of the election when the
Calls and Jacksons arrived for the second session of the Eighteenth
Congress. By December 16 it was known that Henry Clay was out
of the running and that none of the three other candidates had
gotten a majority of the electoral vote.85 The effect of this develop-
ment was to throw the election of a president into the House of
Representatives where the influence of Clay, its speaker, was seen
as a vital factor in determining the choice. Jackson, John Quincy
Adams, and William H. Crawford were the contestants and Jack-
son, with the largest popular vote, was thought by many to be a
sure winner.
Call professed to believe that Jackson's election was sure until
he was approached by an unnamed friend of Henry Clay. This
friend told Call that "from his knowledge of the value which Mr.
Clay set upon the office of Secretary of State, and its patronage,
that he was convinced that Mr. Clay had determined to dispose of
his interest in a manner that would secure him that station." Call
replied that he did not know Jackson's views on that subject and
that it was one which his best friends could not discuss with him.
The gentleman then remarked, "Without pretending to have more
sagacity than others, I venture to say, that Gen. Jackson will not
be elected."86
From December until the election in the House of Representa-
tives on February 9, intrigue, rumor, speculation, claim, and coun-
terclaim kept the adherents of Jackson, Crawford, and Adams at
fever pitch. As the delegate from a territory Call had no vote in
the House but throughout the controversy he was an unflagging
Jackson man. On the appointed day, however, Adams was elected
and when he made Clay his Secretary of State the Jacksonian ad-
herents felt that a "corrupt bargain" had been made between the
two men. From 1825 until 1828 they spread the charge and labored
unremittingly for Jackson's election in 1828.
Despite the exciting business of the election of a president the
House had to conduct its usual business. The Florida road building
program was again an item on Call's list of projects. The measure
which he had secured in the first session for a Pensacola-St. Augus-
tine road was pushed along by an additional appropriation of $8,000
which Call secured on the advice of General Thomas Jesup who







36


Richard Keith Call


was directing the construction. An additional $12,000 was voted for
a new road from the St. Marys River to Tampa Bay.87
Call's other major accomplishment at this session was the passage
of an act to establish a navy yard on the Gulf coast of Florida. His
original bill had located the installation at Pensacola but on motion
of Daniel Webster it had been altered to allow the Secretary of the
Navy to locate it at any point on the Gulf coast of Florida. Ed-
ward F. Tattnall of Georgia was a strong supporter of the measure
and the amended bill was backed by Henry Clay.88
Meanwhile, political opposition against Call was rising in Florida.
The leaders of this opposition were oseph M white eral
S Commissioner on Land Claims, and Joseph L. Smith,_helnited
States Judge for East Florida.With the help of Edgar Macon, the
district attorney in East Florida, Call sought to have Judge Smith
removed. Macon informed Call that Smith was receiving fees for
transacting business during vacation which had previously been
done in term.89 With such information Call attempted to build a
case against Smith for taking fees for his services. On February 3,
1825, Call rose in the House and moved the adoption of a resolution
to investigate the receipt of fees for services by "the Judges of the
District Courts of Florida." He arraigned Smith by name for im-
pairing the purity and integrity of the courts:
Sir, the paltry pence which the learned judge has wrung
from the hands of honest industry, or from the unfortunate
victim of oppression, who has sought protection in your courts
of justice, is not the only evil we deprecate; it is the pernicious
effect of his example in showing a disregard to law, reason, and
decorum, which we most deplore.... ignorance or corruption
in your judiciary, is an evil not less to be lamented than
apostacy in your religion.... But, sir, it is your officer of whom
we complain; you sent him to us, and we ask you to take him
away.90

Samuel A. Foote of Connecticut immediately rose and took Call
to task for going into a statement of the facts of the case "in this
stage of the business," and stated his wish that Call had waited
until the investigating committee had made its report. The Com-
mittee on the Judiciary took up Call's charges but reported that it
was wholly impracticable to make an investigation into the particu-
lars of the case because of the distances involved.91 Smith bitterly







From Military to Political Life


37


charged that Call had deliberately asked for an investigation so late
in the session that one could not be undertaken, while his charac-
ter would be blackened by the unproved charges.
Smith branded Call "a flighty man actuated by personal pique."
His attack, Smith asserted, was "distinguished by one of those blun-
ders, which of him, may be said to be characteristic." He declared
that had Call read the law "with ordinary intelligence" he would
have noted that he was not a district judge, but a judge of a Superior
Court who was authorized to receive fees for performing non-ju-
dicial duties imposed upon him by the territorial government. Call,
he concluded, "has made a false and flagitous charge against me."92
Though the point at issue is an arguable one, Smith seems to
have had the better side of the argument. He was not a district
judge, as Call charged, though he was vested with many of the
duties of a district judge. He also was a territorial judge having
jurisdiction over cases under territorial law. Certain duties imposed
upon him by the territorial government, he argued, caused great
expense and inconvenience. Because of this he took advantage of
a law of the 1823 Legislative Council which justified the collection
of fees by any officer not compensated by law when such officer
"shall perform any service under, and by virtue of any law of this
territory.. ."93
Call did not back down on his charges though he was content '"
to let the dispute rest with a parting reply in the Pensacola Gazette 0,3
in which he referred to Smith as one "familiar with vice and dis-
simulation."94 Judge Smith's friend, Joseph M. White, was mean-
while being talked of prominently in Florida as a candidate for
Congress in the 1825 election. The Pensacola Gazette, which took a
stand opposed to Call, asserted that it was well known that Call had
no intention of running again and had privately so informed his
friends. In the new seat of government located at Tallahassee, how-
ever, a circular was published under the letterhead of the Florida
Intelligence putting Call's name in the race. The first edition of
the Intelligencer had not yet been published, but after it began
publishing in February, 1825, it was generally regarded as express-
ing Call's views. This circular, dated December 20, 1824, praised
Call's principles as "honorable even to chivalry" and assured the
public that he was "incapable of descending to the low acts of
electioneering."95
There was no clear public statement from Call on his intentions


_ _







38


Richard Keith Call


in regard to running again, apparently because of indecision in his
own mind. It seems likely that his Tallahassee friends tried to push
him into the race with their premature announcement of his candi-
dacy. An anonymous letter to the editor of the Pensacola Gazette
expressed the view that Call had not concurred in this announce-
ment and commented, "We hope it [the announcement] was not
done to gratify that private rancor which it is well known has been
engendered in the breasts of disappointed land speculators."96
White, who appeared to be Call's opponent, had gained fame in
Florida for uncovering land frauds at Pensacola and much of the
j violent abuse of him came from disappointed land speculators. Call
and many of his political associates in Florida were big landholders
and that fact, taken with the fierce rivalry between him and White,
caused Call to become identified in the popular mind with these
e' pculative interests. Call's cause was not materially assisted at this
A time by the antics of some of his political associates, many of whom
were quite as imperious as the young delegate and acted often in a
highhanded manner. One of these men, Peter Alba the former
mayor of Pensacola, made a vicious physical attack upon White
and it was widely rumored that White did not dare to offer for
Congress, for if he did it would not be settled by the people "but
by the pistol."97 A meeting to console White for his assault by
Alba was broken up by a band of men armed with dirks, who after-
ward went "hooting, halloaing, and hurraing through the streets!"98
In this atmosphere White announced his candidacy for Congress
with the comment, ". proscription and violence are no part of
my character."99
Call's delicate ego was quickly offended by the many attacks di-
rected toward him by White's partisans and he was provoked to
sharp replies. He apparently did not view himself as a public
servant and when it was suggested that he maintain better rela-
tions with his constituents he angrily wrote:
I am free to admit that I am not calculated for a success-
ful politician so far as success must depend upon a time-serv-
ing humiliating policy which would degrade the reputation of
a gentleman.-I treat every man with politeness-I am mind-
ful of the rights and interests of all .... In serving the Terri-
tory, I have made great personal sacrifices. Under these cir-
cumstances if the people of the Territory are disposed to aban-
don me because I will not lie, fawn, flatter, and deceive-be
it so; I care not; I am able to take care of myself.100


I







From Military to Political Life


In another letter to John Pope of Jackson County Call bitterly
criticized White and his followers, and implied that all men who
questioned his conduct were questioning his honor.'10
The rash remarks which the opposition drew from Call were
turned upon him with vehemence. His legal ability was questioned,
his militia rank was belittled, and the idea that he had made sacri-
fices to represent the territory was found to be perfectly laughable:
"A young man resigns a Captaincy in the army, embraces a new
profession in a poor decayed village, and is then suddenly
transferred to Congress, seated among the patres conscripti and yet
talks of personal sacrifices." His attitude was seen as betraying a
young man "too suddenly elevated beyond his proper sphere." This
critic observed that army officers in civil life had a tendency to
assume more importance than their talents merit and warned, "...
voters will not be drilled in favor of anyone."102
Another critic thought that Call was forgetful of the duty he owed
his constituents and reminded him that office holders were answer-
able to the people, who also possessed the right to criticize their
representatives without being called to the field of honor for so
doing. This man expressed the opinion that many voters who had
previously had nothing against Call were being alienated by his
belligerent attitude.103
Call's internal improvement friends in Congress noted the opposi-
tion forming against him and tried to come to his aid. Andrew
Stewart of Pennsylvania hoped that Call felt "no uneasiness about
the opposition which has recently shown itself," and testified, "If
ever there was a portion of this Union indebted to the zeal,
talents & industry of its representative that portion is Florida,
and she will be unfaithful to herself, and forgetful of her own
interest should she make a change."'04 The National Journal praised
Call as "an ardent and industrious representative" who was unusual-
ly successful in getting bills passed which he brought forward.105
Undoubtedly Call was troubled by the attacks upon him, which
were a new experience to him. He probably also was finding that
the early advice of Jackson and of his uncle about the meager
rewards of public service were true. Perhaps his apparent indecision
about running again actually reflected an unwillingness to commit
himself until some other means of livelihood were certain. At any
rate, on February 14 Call directed a letter to the Pensacola Gazette
informing the editor that he no longer aspired to the honor of rep-


39







40 Richard Keith Call
resenting Florida in Congress, and on February 28 the Commis-
sioner of the General Land Office transmitted to him his credentials
as Receiver of Public Monies at the land office in Tallahassee.
With a wife to support and a family on the way, Call now had the
security of a regular income in Florida where he could also rebuild
his law practice and establish himself financially.106














Reaping the Unearned Increment


A FTER THE CLOSE of the second session of the Eight-
eenth Congress Richard and Mary Call returned to the
Hermitage and after a brief stay made a leisurely water
journey to Florida by way of New Orleans. They were well re-
ceived in New Orleans and spent several pleasant days in the
company of the Marquis de Lafayette, whose friendship they had
made in Washington. When they arrived in Pensacola on April
19, 1825, Call's political supporters gave him an "elegant dinner"
and ball at Mr. Collins' Hotel. The several toasts at the dinner
ranged from tributes to the Union and the Constitution to praise of
Call, Bolivar, and "the Fair." After a few weeks in Pensacola the
Calls pushed on to the new capital which was still being hacked out
of the wilderness. Call's duties as Receiver of Public Monies re-
quired his residence in Tallahassee where the land office was to be
located.'
Tallahassee had been selected as the new seat of government in
1823 by John Lee Williams and William H. Simmons, commission-
ers named under an act of the Legislative Council of that year. It
was a high location eighteen miles north of St. Marks in the heart
of a rich farming area where Spanish missions had flourished in the
seventeenth century. Call looked with favor upon the location and
believed that it might allay the extreme east-west sectionalism in
Florida. The first meeting of the Legislative Council in the new
capital was held in a log house in 1824. By 1825 lots had been sold,
and soon a church, shops, houses, and a hotel rose around the capi-
tol square, but for a number of years unbroken wilderness extended
in every direction from this center of activity.2
Early in 1825 the Florida Intelligencer began publication at Tal-
lahassee under Ambrose Crane and Adam Gordon. When a post-
office was established at the capital in 1825 one of its publishers,
Crane, became the postmaster. The paper maintained a friendly
[ 41 ]







42


Richard Keith Call


attitude toward Call, and his opponents looked upon it as reflecting
his- views and those of the "land office faction." In addition to Call
this land office group included George W. Ward, the Register of
Public Lands, and Robert Butler. Butler was a Jacksonian crony
who had been named Surveyor General of Florida in 1824. He
brought with him from Tennessee Robert W. Williams and Isham
G. Searcy as his clerks. These men, with other Jacksonian cronies
such as James Gadsden, Benjamin D. Wright, and Samuel Overton,
were the early leaders of the political faction variously known as
the land office gang, the Tennessee surveyors, the Call party, or
the "Nucleus."3
After Call's refusal to stand for re-election to Congress and his
return to the territory his feud with Joseph M. White continued.
The main point at issue was Call's letter to John Pope in which
he had denounced White's friends as being as "base and unprinci-
pled" as their leader. Letters from White men appeared regularly
in the Pensacola Gazette. Finally White himself gave notice that
if he had ever injured Call he stood ready to give him "satisfaction."
Call did not overlook the fact that this was the language of the
duelling ground. Had he been disposed to overlook it the next few
words would have obliterated that disposition. General Call, White
wrote, "had made not only a rude but groundless charge, that had
an existence only in his imagination. Should Gen. Call ever
favor the public with his proofs, I shall endeavor to shew whether
the epithets are more applicable to myself or the General."4
Before this missive was made public White left Pensacola and
remained away until the following year. In a public reply Call
apologized to the people that private wrongs had been brought
before them and contemptuously derided White for not publishing
his letter until after taking "flight" from the territory. Call assured
all who were interested that he did not seek distinction "in paper
warfare."5 From the Hermitage Andrew Jackson commended him
upon his reply, saying that it was the only proper notice of White
that could be made in his absence. The old general ventured a
guess that White would never return to Florida.6
Call complained that in the controversy the press in Pensacola
had been hostile to him and had denied him a fair chance to defend
himself. The Gazette denied his charge and rashly asserted that
Call's name had been "too fully identified with that of slanderer"
to give him serious notice. The editor asserted that Call had been


i







Reaping the Unearned Increment


denied access to his columns only once, when he wrote an article
of scurrilityy and abuse." He asserted that he would defend himself
against Call's abuse at all times, "even under a threat of having
our THROAT CUT."7 The editor's friend, Joseph M. White, had
meanwhile been elected to Congress at the 1825 territorial election,
defeating James Gadsden and Joseph M. Hernandez. Gadsden was
known as one of the land office crowd and was generally conceded
to have been Call's candidate. The Intelligencer supported him
while the Gazette backed White.
Scurrility and abuse were characteristic of both sides in the verbal
battles of 1825. Though White had temporarily moved beyond the
range of-Call's temper, some of his satellites had not. Robert Mitch-
ell of Pensacola, who had been named to Call as the author of an
anonymous newspaper attack upon him, was unfortunate enough
to meet him face to face. The encounter occurred on a cool day in
December, 1825, just before Christmas, in the Pensacola public
market. Call accosted Mitchell and inflicted a beating upon him, but
the Gazette reported that the latter suffered no serious injury.8 Pub-
lic thrashings were not uncommon in these days when high-spirited
men were insulted by persons who were not "gentlemen" or by
gentlemen who ignored the challenge to a duel. If Call followed the
example of his old mentor Andrew Jackson, he deliberately had
sought out Mitchell to deliver to him a public horse-whipping.
Though preoccupied by personal and political controversies Call
was establishing himself in Tallahassee and laying the foundations
for his material prosperity. He resumed his law practice with Ben-
jamin Wright as his partner, organized the land office, and began
building his home. Precisely when the Call mansion was completed
has not been ascertained, though his daughter wrote that it was
built in 1825. In that year Call wrote, "We are now settled on our
own place within half mile of Town, and in a short time we shall
be very snugly fixed."9 It seems highly improbable, in view of the
isolation of Tallahassee and the insecurity he felt still about his fi-
nances, that Call's imposing brick residence was completed so early.
It seems more reasonable to believe that the house was completed
early in the prosperous thirties. Certainly it had been finished by
the time Mary Call died in 1836. It was located at the north end
of Adams'S street where it still stands, a magnificent structure over-
shadowing the neighboring official residence of Florida's present-
day governors.


_ __ __ ___ _


43







44


Richard Keith Call


In his early years in Tallahassee Call did not engage in farming
on a scale impressive enough to term him a "planter." In 1825 he
possessed only ten slaves, five of whom were house servants. He
asserted that this was quite as many as he wished to employ but
conceded that he might add more later if he found that farming
would not interrupt his professional pursuits.10 For the next ten
years, however, Call occupied himself predominantly with his pro-
fessional work. Litigation arising from the transfer of Florida and
title disputes provided legal employment and the frequent public
land sales kept him busy in his capacity as Receiver. In addition,
Call himself became a land speculator and made frequent purchases
and sales of quite large tracts. His-inside knowledge of the land
office could not have been disadvantageous, and such an advantage
was not considered a "conflict of interests" by the government or
many citizens in his day. His purchases of public lands were se-
lected from the richest in Middle Florida and he seldom paid more
than the minimum $1.25 per acre.
Florida lands had been the object of speculation since before the
cession of the territory by Spain. As early as 1817 John H. Eaton
and James Jackson of Nashville had formed a company to buy lands
in West Florida. This was done in the expectation that Florida
would soon be acquired by the United States. John Donelson, as
the agent of this group, had gone to Pensacola with a note of in-
troduction signed by Andrew Jackson and had purchased town lots
as well as some 2,600 acres of outlying lands. After the signing of
the treaty of cession in 1819 a genuine boom in Florida lands set in,
Niles' Register reporting a price rise of from 500 to 1,000 per cent,
with city lots selling from $500 to $7,000. About the time of the
transfer in 1821 Call managed to secure several tracts near Pensa-
cola. In partnership with James Innerarity he purchased 800 arpents
of land on Santa Rosa sound and a like amount on Escambia Bay
in partnership with Henry M. Brackenridge. An arpent in Spanish
Florida was slightly more than an acre. In the city of Pensacola Call
seed one town lot."
Call's interest had early shifted to the richer lands of Middle
Florida where most of his subsequent purchases were concentrated.
He received early reports of the fertility of these lands from John
Lee Williams in 1823. When reporting on his trip to select a site for
the seat of government, Williams wrote in glowing terms telling
Call that the Ochlockonee River and Tallahassee lands were first


~, ~,. &'


c-
\
2~ '\`
i14~"'







Reaping the Unearned Increment


45


rate. "The cotton fields," he declared, "exceed by one half, any I
have before seen & the sugar cane better than the Mississippi af-
fords."'2 Call waxed enthusiastic about such fertile lands while in
Washington and became noted as an ardent Florida promoter. His
enthusiasm may have been a factor in the government's decision to
locate the Lafayette land grant in Florida.
The Marquis de Lafayette had been granted a township of land
by the Eighteenth Congress in appreciation of the services which
the French nobleman had rendered to the United States in the
Revolution. Since the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars the
wealthy Frenchman had fallen on hard times and this land grant,
with an accompanying cash grant of $200,000, was the third attempt
of the United States Congress to lighten Lafayette's financial bur-
dens.3 President Monroe selected Florida as the territory in which
the tract was to be located and Lafayette named Colonel John Mc-
Kee to select the lands for him. Land officials in Florida were in-
structed to give McKee all the information they possessed in order
that he might make the best possible selection.14 McKee selected a
township adjoining Tallahassee on the northeast, designated as
township one, north, in range one, east. Over the years Lafayette
named a number of persons as agents to dispose of his tract. McKee
was initially authorized to receive and transmit purchase proposals
and to carry out Lafayette's instructions on them. Call says that in
1825 at New Orleans the Marquis also commissioned him to dispose
of the lands. In 1829 the Florida Advocate reported that George
Graham, the head of the General Land Office in Washington, was
authorized to dispose of a part of the lands. Lafayette, in 1831, told
Call that he had given John Skinner of Baltimore power of attorney
to sell the land, but added that "I continue to depend upon your
kind local advice and exertions for the disposal of one half of my
Florida lands."'5
After his return to France in 1825 Lafayette had written to Call
suggesting the formation of a company of local capitalists to pur-
chase part of the township. Call could make no arrangements, how-
ever, and a few years later expressed doubt that any such company
could be formed in Tallahassee. In 1833 he offered Lafayette $50,-
000 for half of the township but his offer was rejected.16 Though
Lafayette had hoped to retain a part of the land as a family hold-
ing, the entire township was eventually disposed of in piecemeal
fashion. At Call's suggestion the portion adjoining Tallahassee was







46


Richard Keith Call


divided into lots and sold; the remainder was disposed of in tracts
of varying sizes.17
In the fall of 1825 the first child of Mary and Richard Call was
born-a daughter whom they named Ellen. Call apologized to Jack-
son saying, "We are... greatly disappointed in not having a son
as we had flattered ourselves with the hope of giving our first borne
the name of our best and dearest friend Andrew Jackson."'8 Shortly
after this event Call was forced to absent himself from his official
duties for two months because of a severe illness. Described as
"bilious fever," it was to become a chronic disease with him, fre-
quently recurring throughout the remainder of his life. Rachel and
Andrew Jackson anxiously awaited news of his recovery and added
to their expression of relief and pleasure their felicitations upon
the birth of a daughter. The old general added that Mrs. Kirkman
had "ceased to make you the object of her abuse; and I fondly hope
... she may in some measure attone for past improprieties."'9
In April, 1826, Jackson conveyed to Call the news of the death of
Mary's father, and discussed steps which he had taken to protect the
Call interests at the probation of Thomas Kirkman's will at the
next session of the county court. Jackson had engaged three lawyers,
headed by the noted John Bell, and suggested that Call should
bring action to have Kirkman's sanity at the time the will was made
determined by a jury.20 A codicil to the will had given Mrs. Kirk-
man the power to withhold the share of the estate due to the daugh-
ters in case of their marriage. In the event that said shares were
not withheld, they were to be settled upon the daughters and their
heirs exclusive of any control by the husbands.21 Call approved
Jackson's selection of lawyers but hoped that everything could be
amicably "adjusted with the old Lady." After correspondence on
the matter for a year Call ultimately instructed Jackson not to con-
test the will in court. Eventually Mary Call received a portion of her
father's estate, and at her death the remainder was bestowed upon
her surviving daughters, Ellen and Mary.22
Meanwhile, in the winter of 1825-1826, Joseph M. White had
been aiding Judge Smith's attempts to clear himself of the charges
which Call had brought against him in the previous session. White
presented two petitions asking for an investigation of the judge, one
memorial from the inhabitants of East Florida praying for Smith's
acquittal, and one from Edgar Macon, the district attorney, charg-
ing Smith with malfeasance and corruption. However, the Judiciary







Reaping the Unearned Increment


47


Committee, to which the subject was referred, made no report and
was discharged from consideration of the subject.23
Smith and his friends were more successful in presenting their
case to President John Quincy Adams. Elias B. Gould, editor of the
East Florida Herald, assured the president that Call's charges "arose
from personal hostility" and expressed the belief that Smith's con-
duct had been worthy of approval. After convincing Adams that
Smith had been unjustly accused, White persuaded the president
in April, 1826, to remove the troublesome district attorney Edgar
Macon, who was an adherent of the Call faction in politics.24
The month of April also saw the beginning of an attempt to
reconcile Call and White. Daniel E. Burci, one of Call's army
acquaintances, asked him if a friendly settlement could be made.
Burch revealed that Edward Tattnall, a Georgia Congressman, and
Colonel Duncan L. Clinch had discussed the desirability of a settle-
ment and stated his opinion that "nothing but the necessity of the
case has ever made Colo. White your enemy." He assured Call that
he would advise nothing that was not entirely honorable.25
Call exhibited no haste in seeking a settlement. It was rumored
that if White were to return to the territory it would be in the fall,
and no progress was made in bringing the men together until that
season approached. CalLnamed as his intermediary J. W...Ramage,
a naval officer who was also a devotee of the pistol; Ramage ex-
citedly threw himself into the intrigue. In August he told Call that
Pensacola was buzzing with talk about the affair, with the general
opinion being that White would never return. General opinion to the
contrary notwithstanding, White arrived in Pensacola on Septem-
ber 21.26
Within a week after his arrival White was waited upon by Ram-
age who brought this note:27
Sir:
Your return to this Country affords me the opportunity I
have long anxiously awaited, to demand from you, reparation
for the injury and insult, received by me, in consequence of
your publication in the Pensacola Gazette of the 4th June 1825
which appeared long after your departure from this Territory.
My friend Capt. R. of the Navy, will deliver you this letter
and he is fully authorized by me to make any arrangements
which may be agreed upon.
R. K. Call


_ __ ___ __







Richard Keith Call


White referred Ramage to his friend John McCarty of Tallahas-
see for further negotiations. When McCarty was found to be out of
town, Ramage melodramatically met with White "in the woods"
near Quincy on October 16 and insisted that he name another rep-
resentative immediately. White told Ramage that he could not
immediately find a friend to act for him, but after some argument
Daniel Burch was agreed upon. On October 18 Ramage sent an
urgent express to Call asking to have Robert Butler associated with
him to balance off Henry Yonge, who had appeared with Burch on
behalf of White. Ramage also advised Call that his sympathizers
were becoming too warm in their advocacy of his cause. The naval
officer told Call that it had become difficult for him to "parry the
many attacks of Religion, masonry, friends, etc which has been
levelled against me."28 On October 19, however, the four inter-
mediaries held a full discussion of all the issues in dispute and con-
cluded "an honorable and amicable termination of them."29 After-
wards Call's friends were again overly exuberant and circulated
handbills interpreting the settlement as a Call victory. This was
dispelled by Henry Yonge's statement in the Gazette that each side
had retracted all offensive statements concerning the other and
that the settlement was an honorable one for both men.30 -
Jackson, who had become the very embodiment of discretion
since entering the presidential lists, approved of the settlement. He
told Call, "My friend, we ought as we pass through life not to
break our shins, against stools, not in our way, when we can hon-
orably remove them."31 Adams, who had become White's confidante,
noted in his diary that the delegate had barely escaped a duel and
was seeking to be made charge d'affaires to Denmark. He crisply
observed, "Mrs. White very unwilling to go back to Florida."32
Despite the unwillingness of Mrs. White to return to Florida,
White remained in Congress as the delegate from Florida until
1837. Though he and Call never became friends, their relations
were never again as close to the point of actual armed combat as
they had been in 1826. In 1827, 1829, and 1831 Gadsden ran un-
successfully against White, each time backed by Call and the
"Nucleus" at Tallahassee. During Adams' presidency White, enjoy-
ing the confidence of the administration, usually had the decisive
word-oin patronage in Florida. The main critics of both Adams and
White in Florida were the old Jackson followers who clustered
around the "Nucleus." Call warned Jackson that White might be


48







Reaping the Unearned Increment


his friend in his presence but that in Washington he was a slave
to Adams.33
The concentration of Jackson men in the land office furnished
their opponents with an excuse to attack the administration of the
public land policy in Florida. The "Nucleus" at the territorial capi-
tal was never a sharply defined political faction, but the opposition
gave it a more clear-cut membership and program than it in fact
possessed. It never seems to have been more than a group of men
having similar property and political interests who cooperated in-
formally on matters in which they thought alike. It was not a party
so much as it was a "community of interests." To the followers of
White, however, the term "Nucleus" became ani epithet connoting
a group of grasping, self-seeking land speculators and men of wealth
intent upon their own enrichment whatever the cost. One opponent
of the "Nucleus" defined its purpose as "to guard with vigilance
the surveys and sales of the public lands, and to see that no one was
appointed to any office in relation to them, that was suspected of
complaining of an injury." Persons from Tennessee were always
favored, this critic observed, and he noted the great importance
attached by the "Nucleus" to control of the office of Delegate to
Congress. He described "Nucleus" men as solidly united in opposi-
tion to anyone presuming to peep into their arrangements.34
Eventually charges were made that Call and George Ward were
running the Tallahassee land office in a corrupt manner. One citi-
zen complained that Call had tried to obstruct his pre-emption
claim because he had supported White for Congress. He charged:
"speculators buying to sell have had much less trouble in procuring
titles than the actual settlers who voted for Colonel White."35 An
anonymous individual wrote to the Secretary of the Treasury that
the public money at Tallahassee was being misappropriated, and
that Call was using it to purchase lands for himself. This charge
was refuted by Call's accounts which arrived in Washington about
the same time. George Graham, head of the General Land Office
wrote Call about the letter "to guard you against the machinations
of your enemies." Call thanked him with the observation, "I have
no doubt it was written by some minion of Col. Whites You
are aware that we are personal enemies, and I know him to be
capable of such an act."-"
"The abuses and temptations to fraud," wrote another of Call's de-
tracters, "must occur to every reflecting mind. The combination of


_ __


49







Richard Keith Call


receiver with speculators is an infamous thing." This man stated
that Call had often put aside titles to choice lands, and had later
sold them at advanced prices, pocketing the increase himself in a
manner "little short of criminal."37 Though these charges hurled at
Call doubtless were exaggerated and were calculated for political
effect, there can be little doubt that Call the land speculator was
in a very favorable position.
Charges of shady profiting were not all on one side, however.
White also dabbled in the buying and selling of land, and while in
Congress sold to the government a large tract to be used as a live
oak plantation for producing a supply of oak timbers to the navy.
Call and Ward charged that White had acted improperly and to
his own profit in the transaction, foisting off upon the government
a worthless patch of sand. Call tried to uncover any improper in-
fluence which might have been brought to bear by White to get
his own property selected but Duff Green replied to his inquiry,
"Your delegate is a smart man, and manages his matters with the
Dep'tments here in such a way that it is difficult to ensnare him."38
White was indignant at Call's suspicions and declared that he had
made only $28 on the deal. A portion of the tract had been bought
from Call and White asserted, "If I sold worthless property to the
Government, Gen. Call sold a part of this same worthless property
to me .... A man who has had his sickle in so rich a field, might
find better employment than by looking after my gleanings."39
Although Call did have his sickle in the rich field of land specula-
tion, his wealth and the extent of his land transactions did tend to
become exaggerated in the heat of dispute. He was not the largest
purchaser of public lands nor did he make tremendous profits on
each tract he sold. Most of his public land purchases were in Leon
County. Between 1825 and 1831 he purchased over 8,000 acres of
land at public sales at a total cost of about $12,000. The Leon
County Court records indicate that his land sales in the same time
period totalled about 3,000 acres which brought in to him about
$19,000. His purchases from the public lands came largely from
the Lake Jackson and Ochlockonee River areas and the region on
the northern limits of Tallahassee. Both were wisely chosen regions.
The lands near Tallahassee cost him from $2 to $5 an acre; the re-
mainder he purchased at $1.25 per acre.40
The land office duties of Call and Ward were increased by legis-
lation in 1825 and 1826. While Call was in Congress in 1825 the


1


50







Reaping the Unearned Increment


Board of Commissioners to settle land claims based on Spanish
or English grants had been abolished and this duty had been vested
in the Receiver and Register of the land offices. This meant that
they were to decide upon all claims of less than 1,000 acres which
had not already been decided by the Commissioners. For this extra
duty each received $1,000. In 1826 more duties were put upon them
connected with the adjudication of pre-emption claims but no extra
compensation was granted. Call's regular salary as Receiver was
$500 per year plus 1 per cent of the public monies received. From
1826 through 1829 he received a total of $8,889.69 in salary and
commission from the land office. He petitioned Congress for an ad-
ditional $5,630 for extra duties under the pre-emption act, but the
claim was denied.41
From a financial point of view it can be seen that by the end of
the Adams administration Call was doing fairly well. Though he
could not be described as a man of great wealth, his legal practice,
his land speculation, and his land office job brought in a comfortable
income. Call retained the land office position until he became gover-
nor in 1836, and the thirties were even more rewarding than the
twenties. In the early years of Jackson's first administration the
"Nucleus" wielded much influence and enjoyed the life giving sub-
stance which patronage provided. To its ranks were added influ-
ential men who were not actually personal cronies of Jackson. In
Tallahassee such men as Romeo Lewis, Sheriff of Leon County;
Richard C. Allen, a land speculator; William B. Nuttall, a planter;
and George K. Walker, Call's cousin, were associated with the
"Nucleus." In East Florida Joseph Sanchez, an old inhabitant;
Charles Downing, a lawyer; and Samuel Bellamy, a lawyer-planter,
were leading men associated with the group. By 1829 Governor
DuVal was also acting with the Call faction and became one of its
most loyal adherents.42
As Call was growing financially independent and more influential
locally, his mind did not close out events occurring beyond the
limits of Florida. He watched with great interest the progress of
the "bargain and corruption" campaign against Adams and he told
Jackson in 1827, "I feel daily more sanguine that we shall have a
happy triumph on the 4th of March 1829."43 Mary and the young
daughter Ellen visited the Hermitage in the same year, but the old
general was so busy refuting the attempts of Clay "and his hired
panders" to "harrow up the feelings of Mrs. J. and myself' that he


__ ___ __


51









was prevented from giving Mary "a final blow out" before she left.
He promised Call that he would atone for it the next year "should
it take the last shot in the locker."44
Richard Call and his brother George both turned their efforts
to Jackson's cause. George W. Call was a doctor in Russellville,
Kentucky, and could actively sway votes as Richard could not do
in voteless Florida. George Call was in favor of the tariff and inter-
nal improvement features of Henry Clay's "American System" and
he urged Jackson to endorse them. He assured the old general, "I
have embarked my political all in your cause.""5 In Florida Richard
Call took up his pen in Jackson's behalf to assure various question-
ers and newspapers that Jackson had not stolen another man's wife,
that he had not brawled with Commodore Stephen Decatur in the
Senate lobby in 1819, and that he had never threatened to cut off
the ears of Congressman Abner Lacock.46 When Henry Clay quoted
Call to prove that the Jackson men, before the 1824 election, had
not expected Clay to aid them in electing Jackson, Call again took
up his pen.47 "I have no recollection whatever of having made
the remark attributed to me by Mr. Clay," he told Charles A. Wick-
liff; to John P. Van Ness he wrote, "I am confident that the assertion
is without the least foundation."48
Jackson was appreciative of the efforts of his former aide, but
was grieved that "every virtuous and patriotic act of my life is
charged upon me as a crime." He comforted himself with the
thought that "if the whole weight of Executive patronage .
wielded in the most corrupt manner does not prostrate me,
then I have right to exclaim 'truth is mighty and has prevailed.' "49
By the summer of 1828 Jackson's lieutenants saw his victory as
virtually certain. Call told him that he felt "a strong inclination to
be with you in January next," but that imperative circumstances
would prevent it. In December Rachel Jackson died only a few
weeks after the confirmation of her husband's election, and for a
time the president-elect was prostrate with grief. In January, how-
ever, Jackson buried his personal feelings and moved on to Wash-
ington to serve the people.50 Call did not accompany him but was
in Washington by inauguration day. There Call found that the pro-
posed cabinet appointments were being received with mixed emo-
tions. Many of Jackson's appointees were relatively unknown men,
which prompted the use of the derisive term "the millennium of
minnows." In "good society" shock was being expressed at the nam-


52


Richard Keith Call







Reaping the Unearned Increment


ing of John H. Eaton to the cabinet, because in January he had
married the former barmaid Peggy Timberlake. Among the scan-
dalized was the Reverend John N. Campbell, a Presbyterian minis-
ter of Washington. Campbell was understandably reluctant to speak
to Jackson about the matter, but he talked freely about Mrs. Eaton
to the Reverend Ezra Stiles Ely, a Jacksonian admirer from Phila-
delphia who was in Washington for the inauguration.51
Two days after his arrival in Washington Call visited with Ely
and his lady, and in the course of the conversation the subject of
Mrs. Eaton was broached. It developed that Ely had heard all that
Call had heard and more. Call made it plain that his opinions co-
incided with those held by both Ely and Campbell. The opportunity
did not arise, however, for Ely to speak to Jackson on the subject
and he returned to Philadelphia without doing so. Call later visited
the minister in Philadelphia and again they discussed Peggy Eaton.
The Floridian, believing that a clergyman's words would win a more
respectful hearing from Jackson on this explosive topic than his
had, suggested that Ely address a letter to Jackson on the subject.
On March 18, 1829, the minister wrote the fateful letter.52
On its arrival Ely's letter aroused a storm within the walls of the
White House. Jackson collected all manner of "proofs" that the
stories about Peggy were false and demanded to know of the clergy-
man his sources of information. At this counterattack Ely retreated,
and Jackson set William B. Lewis to collecting testimonials on the
spotless nature of Mrs. Eaton's character.53 In a second letter Jack-
son tried to discredit any information which Call might have given
to the minister.
"In all General Call's conversations with me," wrote Jackson, "and
they have been frequent and confidential, he never did intimate
any knowledge of Mrs. Eaton which was calculated, in my opinion,
to cast even a shade of suspicion on her virtue. The very act which
gave rise to his suspicions was one which, in my judgement, should
have given him a more exalted opinion of her chastity."54
Jackson's vehemence and tenacity in defending Peggy Eaton
stemmed in part from his friendship for her husband. In larger
measure, however, it stemmed from Jackson's firsthand knowledge
of the damage which wanton gossip could cause. His late wife
Rachel, whom he had idolized, had been the victim of such gossip
when through a mixup she had married Jackson before her divorce
from her previous husband had become final. The pain which


53









Rachel had suffered was ever in Jackson's mind, and in fighting
Peggy Eaton's fight he became so emotionally involved that it al-
most seemed he was defending Rachel's honor again as he had so
many years earlier.
After Jackson's slashing replies to Ely, the minister's sources came
forward. Campbell revealed that he had been one and Jackson had
already guessed that Call had been one. In a long letter he took
Call to task for his part in spreading tales about Peggy. Call replied
with the hope that he might be wrong and Jackson right, saying:
"Yours is certainly the most charitable belief, and one which I
would embrase if I could .... I tell you in confidence she will
not be reed. in the families of the other members of your cabinet."
Though Call's prediction was an accurate one Jackson scrawled on
the back of the letter, "evidence of the falibility of man and how far
he will be carried by his prejudices ... ."55
Impatiently Jackson prepared another long letter to Call setting
forth his "proofs" of Mrs. Eaton's sterling character with the taunt,
"my Dear Call you have a right to believe that Mrs. T. was not a
woman of easy virtue." He advised that the proof he enclosed was
enough to warrant Call's telling Ely that he had been wrong in
his information about Mrs. Eaton: "Justice to truth and to my
friend, and your friend, Major Eaton requires this statement."56
Jackson reminded Call that his advances toward Mrs. Eaton had
been rebuffed and asserted that Call had told William B. Lewis
about the incident; should there be an investigation a denial would
place him in an unpleasant predicament. The president professed
not to be surprised that the "hired slanderers" of Henry Clay had
spread stories about Peggy Eaton but expressed astonishment that
confidential friends should have aided "in such unhallowed work."
He wished to be rid of the unpleasant subject, however, and gently
told Call, "You and I will not quarrel about it. we always
differed about these slanders but as you have given me no
evidence, entitled to any weight ... I must be excused for still ad-
hering to my own opinion."57
A man with the sensitive pride of Call could not let so incrimi-
natIi--g-a-subjetdroop so easily. He admitted that the topic was one
which he would like to let "slumber in oblivion," but decided that
duty to himself required a reply to the president's letter. "I am much
mortified," Call wrote, "that you have thought proper to class me
among your enemies for doing that which could only have been


54


Richard Keith Call







Reaping the Unearned Increment


55


dictated by the most devoted friendship." He pointed out that he
realized he would incur Eaton's displeasure, but that he thought it
a siall price to pay to save Jackson from embarrassment. He be-
lieved that Eaton and Lewis were conspiring to keep Jackson de-
ceived, and to discredit him was part of their plot. He denied that
he was the only source or the major source of gossip, saying that
the affair between Eaton and the former Mrs. Timberlake had been
"talked of at Washington as publicly as the meetings of Con-
gress."58
Call insisted that he had not told Lewis a story of any encounter
with Mrs. Eaton and that he would call any man a liar who said
that he had told such a story. He observed to Jackson, "I am satis-
fled that you are mistaken in the belief you entertain on the sub-
ject." Call declared that he had not carried tales to any of the
president's enemies and wished that he had never carried any to
him. "I have created enemies among men in power, whose enmity
I expect to feel."59
Call was not successful in having Eaton removed from the cabi-
net, bu- -Eat-on was not the only appointee who he felt would em-
barrass the administration. John M. Berrien of Georgia, the Attorney
General, was a most improper appointee in Call's opinion. The basis
for his objection to Berrien was his connection with important cases
against the government involving the validity of large land grants
made by the Spanish in Florida. These grants were believed by
many to be fraudulent, and Berrien was one of the attorneys rep-
resenting the claimants. Call asserted that these engagements were
"incompatible with his duties as attorney-general of the United
States." He tried to defend Jackson from criticism by publishing a
statement that Jackson had appointed the Georgian without knowl-
edge of his pre-existing engagements.00 Berrien immediately author-
ized Duff Green to deny this allegation in the United States
Telegraph and he reminded Jackson that he had mentioned his
connection with the Florida land cases and that, "You thought, as
I did, that this circumstance presented no difficulty, and I acqui-
esced in the call with which you had honored me."61
Three years later Duff Green informed Call that the denial
which he had published on behalf of Berrien had not been author-
ized by Jackson. In response to Call's inquiry Jackson declared that
while he had known that Berrien was involved in cases against the
government, it had never entered his mind that the large Florida







Richard Keith Call


land cases were included among them. He told Call that "you were
the only individual who gave me the idea, that he was concerned
in those large land claims." However, since the appointment had
been made Jackson felt that no action ought to be taken against
Berrien. Again with futility Call had tried to play the role of presi-
dential adviser, but he had had Jackson's good name at heart. He
told the president, "If I have erred it was in defending you with
too much zeal from charges which I thought were calculated to do
you a serious injury when ever the history of the Florida land claims
is known."62
Call's efforts to save Jackson's administration from embarrassing
appointments won sympathy from some of the men around Jack-
son, particularly from those who agreed with Call about Peggy
Eaton. John Branch, the Secretary of the Navy, and Andrew Jack-
son Donelson, the president's private secretary, were among them.
Branch told Call in a confidential letter, "You may have been in-
discreet, you may ... have committed a trivial sin in the indulgence
of those fine and chivalrous feelings for which you have ever been
characterized, but. ... I wish that your efforts to rescue an old
valued and venerable friend from misery and mortification in dis-
guise, could have succeeded." Branch said that he did not entirely
agree with Call about Berrien and was not disposed to condemn
him. He wrote that Donelson "wished to write and unbosom him-
self to you, but that he could not under existing circumstances."63
During the early years of the Jackson administrations the good
feelings between the president and Call were somewhat strained
by the disputes over Eaton and Berrien. Their relations were not
to receive a serious, severe test, however, until after Call became
governor of Florida.


56










,o9W)


Defending the Public Domain


SHE CONTROVERSIES BETWEEN Jackson and Call
over Berrien and Eaton for the most part had taken place
,through the mails, since Call had returned to Tallahassee
after the inauguration to continue his law practice and pursue
his official duties at the land office. In the first year of the Jack-
son administration Tallahassee was little changed from the rough
village it had been at the beginning of the Adams administration
except that it had grown to larger proportions. The population
numbered about 1,000 and there were now three hotels, two
private schools, nine stores, two groceries, and a grog shop. One
wing of a more permanent capitol had been completed and the
Legislative Council no longer met in a log house. In the fall of the
year 1829 the Council incorporated St. John's Parish of the Episco-
pal Church, and Call was named one of three wardens empowered
to govern the church. The parish did not have its own church
building until 1837, however, toward the building of which Warden
Call had subscribed $500. Call's economic status was on the up-
swing even in 1829. The county tax rolls show that he owned 8,754
-acres ofaland, thirteen slaves, and town lots valued at $500. He was
also assessed for one four-wheel pleasure carriage. In little Talla-
hassee Call was a big man and only one other paid more taxes
than he did.1
Call and his friends looked hopefully to the new administration
as heralding a new era for them in terms of political influence. Call
himself was not disappointed for he soon received a new federal
appointment and kept his old job as Receiver of Public Monies as
well. Three weeks after taking office President Jackson proposed
to-Call that he take an appointment as assistant counsel for the
United States in two large land cases, the concerning the Arre-
dondograntaznd the Forbes grant. The Congress in 1828 had
acted a law providing for judicial settlement of all remaining
[57


__







Richard Keith Call


land claims which were larger than one league square, and author-
izing the president to appoint a law agent to superintend the inter-
ests of the United States and an assistant counsel to assist in the
prosecution of the cases.2
In the last days of the Adams administration William Wirt, the
Attorney General, pointed out that the outcome of the Florida land
cases would be finally determined by the Supreme Court and that
the success of the United States would depend upon a proper pre-
sentation in the lower courts. Therefore, he told Adams, it was im-
portant that in the lower courts counsel should be employed "who
are masters of the whole law upon the subject." Wirt suggested
that the counsel also be required to make a compilation of the
Spanish land laws. He named Joseph M. White as the best quali-
fied man for the job and Adams ultimately appointed him.3 White,
however, had been engaged with Berrien and Daniel Webster to
defend the claimants in the Arredondo and Forbes cases and was
unwilling to act for the United States in those two cases.4
Adams finally consented to White's being employed on his own
terms, it being understood that his chief duty would be the compila-
tion of the Spanish land laws. White also stipulated that he should
receive $3,000 as a retainer fee not to appear against the United
States in any but the Forbes and Arredondo cases. The only cases
in which he specifically agreed to defend the United States were
those founded on British grants and those founded on claims which
the old Board of Land Commissioners, of which White had been a
member, had declared to be fraudulent. So it was that under Presi-
dent Adams the assistant counsel-for.the United States _was appear-
ing against the United States in the two cases involving the largest
Florida land grants.5
When Jackson took office the Commissioner of the General Land
Office suggested the appointment of an additional assistant counsel
to represent-the-United-States in the Forbes and Arredondo cases.
He also recommended that the appointee be authorized to go to
Havana to try to acquire originals of all papers relating to lands
granted by Spain in Florida. It was as a consequence of this sug-
gestion that Jackson proposed to engage Call as assistant counsel.
The ebullient Floridian was to receive $500 for each case which
he argued before the Superior Courts of the territory and $1,000 for
each case which it was necessary for him to defend before the
Supreme Court.6


58







Defending the Public Domain


59


Though Jackson hired Call to assist in the cases which White
could not handle, he was still faced with the problem of having an
Attorney General, Berrien, who was --defending the claimants in
the.same cases. The initial responsibility for the defense of the
United States rested with the local district attorneys who normally
could have consulted with the Attorney General and, in these cases,
the assistant counsel. When the district attorneys called for aid,
Berrien advised Jackson to appoint "some professional gentleman"
to act in his capacity for the Forbes and Arredondo cases. Berrien
wrote that "the magnitude of the cases, as well as the novelty of
some of the questions involved, will make it important to secure
to the Government professional talents of the highest order."7 Act-
ing upon this advice, Jackson turned to former Attorney General
Wirt and named him to supervise the United States side of the
cases in which Attorney General Berrien was defending the claim-
ants.8
Call's role in this complex arrangement was to assist the district
attorneys in Florida before the Superior Court and to assist William
Wirt in cases which might be carried on appeal to the Supreme
Court. Like White he also had a major task aside from the actual
preparation of cases. Call was commissioned to go to Cuba to pro-
cure original documents, or authentic copies of documents, relating
to the large claims. At the end of March, 1829, James A. Hamilton,
who was acting Secretary of State pending the arrival of Martin
Van Buren, instructed Call on his mission, pointing out that his spe-
cial agency was to find out whether suspicions that the Forbes and
Arredondo grants were fraudulent were well founded.9
Under Spanish rule just before the cession, Florida had been a
part of the Captaincy-General of Cuba and since the cession in 1821
the United States had been unsuccessfully trying to get from the
Captain-General of Cuba certain of the Florida archives which
included the records of land grants and title transfers. Four agents
-James G. Forbes, James Biddle, Thomas Randall, and Daniel P.
Cook-had already made fruitless journeys to Havana in quest of
the missing archives. Yet despite the refusal of the authorities
in Cuba to deliver the records, the claimants of Florida lands con-
tinued to produce originals or authenticated copies of documents
purporting to establish their claims. This caused many persons, Call
among them, to believe that Spanish officials were in collusion with
the holders of questionable land claims in Florida.10







60


Richard Keith Call


The appointment of plain spoken, energetic Richard Call was
looked upon by many as a move which would at last get some
action one way or the other. It should be made clear, however, that
Call's mission differed somewhat from that of the previous agents
sent to Cuba in that his major task was not to secure the Florida
archives but was to get information about certain land claims. The
instructions which he received from the State Department specified
that if he could not get original documents he was to content him-
self with "authentic copies of them." He was to make plain to the
Spanish authorities that his mission was in no way to be construed
as relinquishing the "undoubted right" of the United States to ab-
solute possession of all original archives.11
Call did not immediately leave for Cuba. His wife was expecting
another child and he informed Jackson that he would not leave
until its birth. The president consented, but expressed his anxiety
to hear of Call's return from Havana with documents relating to the
land cases. In a few months Call was seeking another reprieve on
the grounds that it would be dangerous to go to Cuba during the
"sickly season."12 Jackson was dubious and wrote that White wanted
to bring the land suits to trial in October, but he conceded that
Call might wait if the trial could be delayed. The delay was secured
and Call so informed Van Buren. In this interim the controversy
about Peggy Eaton, as well as the one about Berrien's appointment,
was dragging on. Call also was occupied in seeking the opinions of
the three federal district attorneys in Florida as to which documents
would be most useful in the government arguments.13
Finally, on December 22, 1829, Call left Tallahassee for Key West
and proceeded thence to Havana. Arriving in the Cuban capital
on January 5, 1830, he immediately notified the Captain-General in
writing of his presence and requested an interview. On January 7
William Shaler, the American consul, verbally informed Call that
the Captain-General would see him on the ninth. Call felt that this
was no way to treat a Special Agent of the United States and, deem-
ing this mode of communication unusual and disrespectful, he de-
clined the interview. This treatment quickly brought an explanation
and apology from the Captain-General, who sent his interpreter to
Call with an invitation to meet with him.14
Call accepted this invitation and demanded of the Captain-Gen-
eral "such original documents relating to the land claims in Florida
as might exist in the archives of Havanna." That functionary in-


I







Defending the Public Domain


formed Call, as previous agents had been informed, that all papers
in the archives of Florida had already been surrendered and that
none remained in his hands. Call denied this contention and insisted
that in the hands of the Spanish government there still were papers
which rightfully belonged to the United States. In the face of Call's
insistence, the Captain-General gave way and agreed to make a
search of the archives and to make copies of any papers that might
be found. "After the procrastination and delay common to these
people," Call reported, original title papers to the big grants were
produced. While they were being copied Call observed that certain
docu-ments varied so materially from the copies which the claimants
had used to prove their ownership that he believed it would be
necessary to produce the originals in court.15
The Captain-General was very reluctant to deliver over the origi-
nal documents; however, after much difficulty and delay Call suc-
ceeded in obtaining them. He also obtained copies of papers con-
cering he power of local officers to make grants of land. The latter
were secured by surreptitiously employing archives workers. After-
ward the Captain-General genially authenticated the illicit copies.
With the acquisition of the original grants and the papers bearing
on the powers of the officials Call believed that he had secured
everything necessary for the defense of the United States in the
Forbes and Arredondo cases. He informed the State Department,
however, that many documents relating to Florida which might be
of great importance still remained in Havana. Call suggested that
an order be secured from the King of Spain for their delivery, and
asserted that with the knowledge he had gained of their existence
and situation, "I feel well convinced that I could with the proper
authority procure them.""6
Calspent about two months in Havana and there enjoyed the
pleasures of Cuban society. The American merchant Vincent Gray
seems to have been his chief host, and the two men spent long
hours recounting events of the War of 1812. Gray claimed that it
was his intelligence which informed Jackson on British plans to
attack New Orleans. In March, 1830, Call returned to the United
States arriving in Tallahassee about the twentieth. He was "morti-
fied" at the delay which had attended his mission but expressed
satisfaction that he had done everything possible to protect the
public interests in the Florida land cases. He reported that most
of the grants "bear on their face conclusive evidence of their fraudu-


_


61







Richard Keith Call


lent character," and that the "prejudices in behalf of the claimants"
were clearly apparent among the Spanish officials.17
The papers which Call produced relating to the grant to Don Fer-
nando de la Maza Arredondo indicated that although the grant was
a genuine one, it had been made on condition that two hundred
families be settled on the tract within three years. The documents
relating to the Forbes grant indicated a more complex situation.
In the first place, the so-called "Forbes grant" was really a series
of claims based upon several alleged grants to the commercial
house of Panton, Leslie and Company and its successor John Forbes
and Company, as well as to John Forbes individually. One large
grant, estimated at about 1,500,000 acres, and located between the
Apalachicola River and Choctawhatchee River, was granted by the
Captain-General of Cuba to John Forbes and Company for services
rendered to the Spanish government and losses sustained by the
company. This was the only obviously fraudulent grant, bearing
on its face a clumsy alteration of the date of execution.. Under the
treaty by which Florida was ceded to the United States all grants
made after January 24, 1818, were "declared and agreed to be null
and void." The alteration of dates was attempted in an effort to
validate this grant.18
The other grants to Panton, Leslie and Company, John Forbes
and Company, and to John Forbes individually, took in most of
the land between the Apalachicola and St. Marks Rivers and were
estimated to have a total acreage of about 1,200,000. These grants
were made by Florida Indian tribes in payment of debts owed to
the commercial houses, and were confirmed by the Spanish gov-
ernor of West Florida. These grants were presented for adjudication
by Colin Mitchel, a Havana merchant who claimed American,
English, and Spanish citizenship, who had purchased the rights of
the original grantees.19 One historian of the Supreme Court says
that the real promoters of the Mitchel claim were George Griswold,
a New York shipper, "combined with other capitalists and with
some of the most noted politicians in the country."20 A conservative
historian of the Court observes that "a large number of these Span-
ish claims had been assigned to and were being prosecuted by
bankers, financiers, and speculators in New York and London" thus
giving Andrew Jackson, in his fight upon the money power, a vivid
interest in the outcome of the cases.21
The first of the grants to come to trial was the Arredondo case.


I


62







Defending the Public Domain


It was first tried in the Superior Court at St. Augustine and the deci-
sion went in favor of the claimants. An appeal made to the Supreme
Court by counsel for the United States came before that tribunal
in March, 1832. Call, Wirt, and Roger B. Taney, who had suc-
ceeded Berrien as Attorney General the previous year, represented
the United States, while White, Berrien, and Webster represented
the claimants. The arguments began on March 2 and ended on
March 7. The eminent historian of the Supreme Court, Charles
Warren, ranks this case as one of the few in this period which had
a permanent effect upon the history of the country. He says that
"in this case the Court established the public land policy of the
Government on the basis of the most scrupulous respect for treaties,
preferring to preserve the honor, rather than the property of the
government, and to run the risk of confirming possibly fraudulent
claims rather than to impair the reputation of the Government with
foreign nations."22
In the Arredondo case Call contended that the condition imposed
b~yh rant-the settlement of two hundred families-had not been
met. He also claimed that the Intendant of Cuba, who made the
grant, had not possessed such power.23 The Court rejected the argu-
ments of government counsel and upheld the decision of the lower
courtfor the claimants. The major arguments of the government
attorneys were waved aside in favor of a liberal construction of the
clauses in the treaty of cession protecting property rights. The Court
excused the non-performance of the conditions of the grant on the
grounds of change of circumstances and jurisdiction.24 Despite the
fact that the Court was satisfied that the Intendant of Cuba had
the land-granting power, it asserted that it was unnecessary to in-
quire into that fact because the act of a duly appointed official was
to be presumed to be a valid official act with the burden of dis-
proof lying with the United States.25
The Arredondo grant had embraced 289,645 acres and was one
in which Northern capitalists had been involved. Call was con-
vinced that it was a fraudulent claim and that all the large grants
were patent efforts to cheat the government of land which was
rightfully its property. After the decision in the Arredondo case he
became quite pessimistic about the prospects of defeating any of
the other "evidently fraudulent" claims.26 He was, nonetheless, to
be successful in two cases before the Superior Courts of Florida,
one of which was not appealed.


_ __ __


63







Richard Keith Call


John Innerarity, a member of the house of Forbes and Company,
instituted suit for the immense tract between the Apalachicola and
Choctawhatchee Rivers on behalf of the firm. The case came to
trial in the Superior Court of West Florida and the claim was in-
validated for being based on an obviously forged document. No
appeal was made and the decree of the lower court became final.27
The tract east of the Apalachicola, which Colin Mitchel claimed,
came before the Superior Court of Middle Florida and was also
invalidated. Call figured prominently for the government in both
cases.
The government arguments against Mitchel included three points
of major importance: (1) As the title to all lands in Florida was
vested in the Crown, the Indians ceding the land had no title to it,
nor did they have prescriptive rights to it since most of them lived
in the United States at the time of the grant. (2) The Governor
of West Florida had possessed no power to ratify Indian grants. (3)
Even had the governor possessed such power the lands granted
were in East Florida. The Superior Court, in upholding the govern-
ment, made much of a discovery by the judge that watermarks on
the confirmation papers were said to indicate that the paper had
been made subsequent to the dates upon them.28
The claimants appealed this case to the Supreme Court and it
was docketed on February 2, 1831. It was not tried for four years,
however, because of continuations granted at government request
in the hope that more evidence could be turned up in the Havana
archives. In line with Call's suggestion of 1830, the American min-
ister to Spain had applied for a royal order for the delivery of all
Florida archives remaining in Cuba and had been successful in
getting it. Secretary of State Edward Livingston named Jeremy
Robinson, an experienced hand at Latin American affairs, to carry
out the order. He said that he had not asked Call to go because
Call had already left Washington when the royal order arrived.29
Robinson was directed to get from Call before going to Cuba all
information which the latter might have about the disposition of
the archives. He arrived in Tallahassee on May 28, 1832, and
waited impatiently for Call to return from the sessions of nearby
county courts. After several weeks in Tallahassee, during which
time Call related to him his experiences with Cuban officialdom,
Robinson proceeded to Pensacola and took passage for the Cuban
capital. There he soon adopted the same views toward the land


64







Defending the Public Domain


grants as were held by Call. He became convinced that Colin
Mitchel had bribed Spanish functionaries to forge or alter records
to assist him in his suit before the United States courts.30
Robinson's progress in getting into the archives was slow, owing
in large measure to the apparent determination of the officials not
to execute the royal order. He copied Call's example, however, and
bribed the Spanish clerks and employees for the loan of indices and
inventories of the archives. For two years he remained in Havana
examining and copying documents. His work, however, was delayed
not only by official indifference but by ill health, and in November
of 1834 he died. Though he was not successful in returning a single
original document to the United States, he did send inventories of
the Florida papers and copies of official reports bearing on land
grants. Upon Robinson's death Nicholas Trist was sent to Havana
to return ten specific categories of documents which were thought
to be necessary in the Mitchel case. Trist returned forty-five docu-
ments, but none was admitted as evidence by the Supreme Court.31
While Robinson worked in Cuba the Supreme Court continued
the Mitchel case and Call was occupied in other land cases. In 1831
White's services were terminated and Call was engaged to act as
assistant counsel in all suits instituted in Florida on land claims.
In this capacity Call spent most of 1831 and 1832 assisting in these
cases before the territorial courts. Several hundred cases were
brought, most of which concerned East Florida claims. The At-
torney General, Roger B. Taney, reported to Jackson that the gov-
ernment could not afford to recompense Call for each case argued
on the basis of their earlier agreement and recommended an annual
salary of $2,500 for him. Taney observed that this was far less than
the claimants would have paid him to represent them.32
During 1833 Call's legal work took a back seat to his electioneer-
ing. In thatyear he ran against White for Congress but was de-
feated. He still also held the post of Receiver at the land office and
it required some of his time; however, much of the work was dele-
gated to clerks, to the apparent detriment of the records of the
office. The files of the General Land Office are filled with letters
from the Commissioner reproving Call for not sending in his reports
on time, and correcting errors in his accounts. Call continued to
hold the posts of Receiver and assistant counsel until his appoint-
ment to the governorship in 1836. Actually he held all three posts
for a brief period in that year.


65







66


Richard Keith Call


At the January, 1834, term of the Supreme Court the government
got another continuance of the Mitchel case. On February 19 Wil-
liam Wirt's death left the prosecution of the remaining cases in the
hands of Call and another new Attorney General, Benjamin F. But-
ler. Call travelled to Washington for the January term and repre-
sented the United States in eleven East Florida claims which were
heard by the Court at that session. The most important was the
case of George J. F. Clarke in which the Court reaffirmed the doc-
trines laid down in the Arredondo case. To Call's argument that the
governor had exceeded his powers in granting Clarke a tract larger
than he was authorized to do, Chief Justice John Marshall asserted,
"A grant made by a governor, if authorized to grant lands in his
province, is prima facie evidence that his power is not exceeded ....
His orders are known to himself and to those from whom they
proceed, but they may not be known to the world."33
The Court upheld the lower court in validating the claim though
it ordered the lower court to restrict its size to the acreage in the
grant, which that court apparently had expanded.34 The ten remain-
ing cases were also terminated in favor of the claimants but three
of those, too, were diminished in size. In the Clarke case Call
alone had appeared for the United States while Berrien and Wilde
appeared for the claimants. In the remaining cases Call represented
the government and White appeared for the claimants.35
After this term of the Court ended Call returned to Florida and
remained until the January, 1835, term began. In December, 1834,
as he was preparing to return for the Mitchel case, news arrived of
the death of Jeremy Robinson in Havana. Assuming that this would
delay the documents which Robinson might have turned up and
that the Court might grant another continuance, Call delayed his
departure. "The recent afflictions, and present delicate situation of
my family," he wrote to Butler, "would render my absence from
home exceedingly painful, and unless required by necessity, should
be avoided on my part."'6
The afflictions to which Call had reference were the deaths of his
daughter Mary Jane and his only son Richard Jackson Call. Since
the birth of Ellen in 1825, Mary and Richard Call had had five more
daughters and one son. In 1826 twin daughters, and in the fall of
1832 two other infant daughters, had died. In September of 1834
the infants Mary Jane and Richard joined them, both being buried
on the eighteenth in a single coffin. The "delicate situation" to







Defending the Public Domain


which Call referred was the pending birth of the last child, Mary
Call.37
Despite the affliction of these personal difficulties Butler felt that
Call was badly needed in Washington. "I regret exceedingly," he
wrote, "that you should have determined ... to remain at home ...
inasmuch as it is altogether doubtful, whether the case of Mitchel
will be continued ... and the Court have already decided that the
Missouri cases in which I also desired your assistance are no longer
to be connected with that of Mitchel, but to be brought on at an
early date."38 To the Secretary of the Treasury, Butler wrote, "The
aid of the surviving assistant counsel General Call will be essential
in the argument of this case." Some of Butler's anxiety was no doubt
due to the fact that Wirt had not written a full argument before
his death and had left only notes on the defense which he had
prepared.39
On March 14, 1835, the Supreme Court refused to grant another
continuation in the Mitchel case. White and Berrien for the claim-
ants and Call and Butler for the United States heard Chief Justice
Marshall denounce the delay as already excessive and declare that
"no rational foundation is laid for the opinion that new and impor-
tant additions will or can be made to the information the record at
present contains."40 The Court then reversed the decision of the
lower court and declared the Mitchel claim to be a valid one.41 The
Indian grants were upheld as, in the opinion of the court, having
been made according to Spanish law and practice, and the copies
of the confirmation documents were accepted despite Call's protes-
tations that they were not even notorial acts, but were private
copies entitled to no credit. The Court brushed aside these objec-
tions with the observation that the questioned confirmations were
only a part of numerous undisputed documents tending to establish
the grant.42
Call was much disheartened by the loss of this case and two other
land cases in 1835. With disgust he left Washington, writing to his
friend Donelson, "I am now fairly launched on the bosom of the
great Potomac, but the power steam, tide, and wind, combined does
not carry me over the troubled waters so fast as I am borne by my
feelings and wishes toward the South."43 Call was bitter in his
criticism of the Supreme Court for its decisions on the Florida land
claims and declared that its precedent in the Mitchel case would
remove all objections to the confirmation of any of the remaining


_ __ __ __ _ _


67







68


Richard Keith Call


claims. He ridiculed the Court policy of regarding the grant itself
as evidence of the power to make a grant, and asserted that the
Supreme Court had vested Spanish officials with powers which
even their own king had not given them. Much expense and in-
convenience could have been saved, he wryly suggested, had Con-
gress merely enacted a bill confirming every grant of any kind.44
Many have been critical of the course of the Court in the Florida
land cases and the decision in the Mitchel case did raise questions
worth pondering. The Court apparently closed its eyes to the hin-
drances which Spanish officials put in the path of those who sought
to uncover original documents. It would be interesting to know
why, in the face of contrary evidence, the aged Chief Justice stated
that no difficulty had been put in the way of American agents and
that every facility had been accorded them.45 Another point which
seems questionable was the inclusion in the decree of a 7,000-acre
tract, Forbes Island, which was not even in the claim being ad-
judicated before the Court.46 The island was at that time the sub-
ject of a case being heard in the Superior Court in Florida. Attorney
General Butler expressed his amazement at this enlargement of the
claim by the Court, and Call declared, "I was indeed surprised to
find that the island is included in the decree. I listened with
great attention to the decree when read in Court, and feel most
confident that the island was not mentioned at that time."47
One historian of the Supreme Court, Gustavus Myers, saw the
decisions in the Florida cases as part of a pattern of decisions by
which "judicial dictator" John Marshall designed to strengthen the
governing and capitalist classes.48 The more conservative Charles
Warren viewed the decisions as designed to protect private prop-
erty rights and preserve the national honor of the United States
by strict adherence to the article of the treaty of cession which
recognized property rights existing before 1818.49 A third historian,
Ernest Sutherland Bates, points out that the rights of Spain were
not at issue in any of the claims because the actual claimants were
American capitalists not Spanish citizens. It is his contention that
the Court was governed less by respect for treaties than by the
formalistic procedure established in the Yazoo land fraud cases
whereby it refused to consider the evidence of fraud behind a
formal grant.50
What was Call's attitude toward the Court and its decisions? Why
did he consent to defend the public interests when he could more







Defending the Public Domain 69
profitably have given his services to the speculators who were press-
ing the claims? Call was critical of the reasoning of the Court, as
we have shown, and was convinced that the Court was disposed
"to avail itself of every circumstance however remote, or trivial to
sustain the claims against the government.""5 Yet there is no evi-
dence which indicates that Call believed the courts to be in league
with capitalists or speculators. He did firmly believe that the specu- j
lators were in league with the Spanish officials to cheat the United
States. He never gave up the idea that the grants were made by
local officials who thought proper to transcend their powers be-
cause of the pending cession of the province.52
SCall had been approached to defend the Mitchel claim in 1828
but had requested a fee which Mitchel had declined to pay. Later
when his personal hero, Andrew Jackson, requested him to defend
the United States, at an admittedly lower fee, he gladly consented
to do so. There is no indication that Call had any idea of being a
part of any Jacksonian crusade against the money power or against
vested privilege. The evidence seems to point, however, to a strong
personal conviction on Call's part as the motivating factor in his
defense of the government. He was certain that the grants were
frauds perpetrated by the wily Spaniards and, as he possessed some
of Jackson's tendency to attribute evil motives to political enemies,
this belief was probably strengthened when White undertook to
defend the claimants. It cannot be ignored, too, that confirmation
of the grants would eliminate any federal revenues from them and
would remove large choice tracts from Call's own speculations.)
He thus stood to incur personal economic loss, in that as Receiver
he would lose the commission from the sale of the lands by the
government and as a speculator he would lose the opportunity of
buying them at the government price of $1.25 per acre.
Despite the fact that great vested interests were involved in push-
ing the Florida land cases, Call's opposition to them apparently
stemmed from these more personal sources: his friendship for
Jackson, his hostility toward the Spaniards, and his own economic
interests. Probably the fact should not be overlooked that the ap-
pointment as assistant counsel for the United States, with the op-
portunity of appearing before the Supreme Court, was a great
feather in the cap of a frontier lawyer with little formal training.
He could not have foreseen that from fifteen cases argued before
the highest court he would record fifteen defeats.














To the "Nucleus" Go the Spoils


SHE EXPECTATIONS of the members of the "Nucleus"
that the election of Andrew Jackson would redound to
their benefit were soon fulfilled. In April, 1829, Governor
William P. DuVal wrote to Jackson that his friends in Florida were
"solicitous that the benefits resulting from the salutary reforms
which you have commenced should also be extended to Florida."
He reminded Jackson that when he had been governor the admin-
istration had not allowed him to utilize his friends in filling the ap-
pointive offices and asked, "I beg of you to remember them now
and aid us in giving a character to our Territory it richely deserves."'
DuVal named a long list of officeholders who should be removed
to effect the "salutary reforms" which he had in mind. Call also
suggested removals from time to time and his suggestions usually
were acted upon in the first years of the administration. Joseph M.
White, who had been more influential with the Adams administra-
tion, assumed an air of naive surprise and indignation that his rec-
ommendations no longer carried much weight at the White House.
He visited his old patron, the former president, and together the
two men consoled each other about the dreadful changes being
wrought by the new administration. In a tone of shocked righteous-
ness White related to Adams that twelve removals had been made
in Florida with no justification. The'former president nodded sym-
pathetically as the Florida delegate related how Jackson had
"bristled into a passion" when he had questioned the Florida re-
movals and had shouted that every last man had been removed for
"oppression or defalcation." Shaken, White had retreated to the
office of Secretary of State Van Buren where he complained that
his recommendations had been ignored, and asked what instances of
oppression or defalcation had occasioned Jackson's removals in
Florida. The urbane Secretary of State soothed the ruffled Floridian
and assured him that either he had misunderstood the president or

[70]







To the "Nucleus" Go the Spoils


the president's memory was at fault for, he quietly observed, no
reasons were ever given for their removals.2
We have already noted the elevation of some of Call's friends to
federal jobs. In 1825 Benjamin D. Wright, his law partner, had be-
come federal district attorney at Tallahassee, and Ambrose Crane
had become postmaster of that city. Wright was later transferred
to Pensacola. Crane edited the Florida Intelligencer in 1825 and
1826, a paper known as the organ of the "Nucleus," and he was
followed in the editorship by Algernon S. Thruston. Thruston's
reward came early in 1830 when he was named Collector of Cus-
toms at Key West in place of William Pinckney, removed. In 1827
Call's friend Edgar Macon, whom Adams had removed as district
attorney in St. Augustine, succeeded to the editorship of the Intelli-
gencer, which then became the Florida Advocate. Leslie A. Thomp-
son, another member of the "Nucleus," was the last editor of the
Advocate before its failure in 1829. From August, 1829, until De-
cember, 1830, the "Nucleus" was without a newspaper voice.3
The impending Congressional election of 1831, however, de-
manded that newspaper support for the "Nucleus" and its candi-
date be secured. William B. Nuttall approached the editor of the
Floridian, William Wilson, with the proposal that he not favor
White in the forthcoming election. Nuttall further suggested that
if Wilson would take Edward R. Gibson on his staff and be favor-
able toward the "Nucleus," then he need fear no competing press
in Tallahassee. Wilson declined to enter into any such arrangement,
and on the following day he was approached by Call. In the course
of their discussion of the political leanings of the Floridian Call
asked Wilson, "Is there no possibility of making an arrangement?"
"None whatever," was the editor's reply. That afternoon the pros-
pectus of a new paper, the Florida Courier, was published.4 This
new publication was favored in 1831 by a resolution of the Legis-
lative Council awarding to it the contract for the public printing
despite charges of its competitor that it was a vehicle of abuse
and filth and the organ of "land speculators and political mercen-
aries."5 Gibson edited the paper until 1832 when he joined Duff
Green in the management of the Washington United States Tele-
graph. The Courier press is notable not only for its support of the
"Nucleus," but for having published the first novel in Florida, Don
Pedro Casender's The Lost Virgin of the South.6
The patronage of the federal government was also bestowed upon


_ I_ __ __


71







72


Richard Keith Call


a number of other persons associated with the "Nucleus." Richard
C. Allen, a Tallahassee land dealer and crony of Call, replaced
Samuel Brents as Law Agent in Florida, thus becoming associated
with Call in the land claims cases. Thomas E. Randolph became
United States Marshal at Tallahassee and George K. Walker, Call's
cousin and business partner, became United States Attorney for
West Florida when Benjamin D. Wright gave up that post in 1830.
In 1834 Wright became editor of the Pensacola Gazette. Call's old
duelling crony, James W. Ramage of the navy, was appointed to
the post of master commandant in that branch of the service.7
The peak of the power and influence of the "Nucleus" was
reached during 1830 and 1831 when its ties with the Jackson ad-
ministration were strongest. The Congressional election of 1831
and the attempt by the followers of Joseph M. White to unseat
Governor DuVal are events of those years testifying to the support
which was given to the Florida group from Washington. The cam-
paign for delegate began in 1830 and, as usual, featured White,
the incumbent, against James Gadsden, representative of the "Nu-
cleus." In this campaign Call was a vigorous supporter of Gadsden,
as he had been in the past. He particularly assailed White for his
connection with the claimants of the large land grants, and his
sale of land for the controversial live oak plantation.8 Call and his
friends tried to make political capital among the squatters on the
huge Mitchel claim by showing that White was doing them a dis-
service in upholding the claimants. Should the claimants win, Call
pointed out, actual settlers would not be able to pre-empt the land
at $1.25 per acre but would have to pay the prices demanded by
companies of speculators. In this campaign the tables were turned
on White, former foe of speculators, by Call-now fighting as cham-
pion of the people against White, champion of the vested interests.
Call's participation in the campaign became so vigorous that a
stranger was reported to have asked which of the two, Gadsden or
Call, was running against White.9
White's friends, with their control of the influential papers in
Pensacola and Tallahassee, set up a very damaging outcry against
the machinations of the "Nucleus." They represented it as a power-
ful, invisible, evil force ruling the territory through tributaries and
auxiliaries in every quarter. Some saw great speculative combines
injurious to the public welfare growing from the influence of the
"Nucleus." The clamor against this phantom power grew so great







To the "Nucleus" Go the Spoils


that Gadsden at length felt it necessary to state that he was not
then and never before had been a member of it.10
To combat the power of the "Nucleus" an attack designed to
drive a wedge between the Call-Gadsden faction and the Jackson
a'fmi-istiition was launched. The opposition press played up the
disagreements between Call and Jackson over Eaton and Berrien,
and tried to show that Call's opposition to them was opposition to
the Jackson administration. Dark insinuations were also made that
there was a Clay supporter in the land office, and assertions were
made that the main support for Gadsden came from the friends
of Henry Clay. Gadsden, it was rumored, had pointedly condemned
the appointment of Martin Van Buren to the cabinet; Gadsden, it
was implied, was opposed to the administration. Later events were
to show some truth in the latter implication. With the election a
month away, "Cato" wrote the editor of the Floridian that the "Nu-
cleus" was opposed to the measures and the principles of Andrew
Jackson, but that it would invoke his name to benefit by his popu-
larity. General Jackson, he wrote, "carries more dead weight than
ever man run with.""
Despite the great pressure brought to bear for his defeat White
was re-elected to Congress, though his majority was a narrow 85
out of 3,891 votes cast. In Middle Florida the "Nucleus" had tri-
umphed in giving Gadsden a majority of almost two hundred, but
White's majorities in East and West Florida carried him to victory.
The delegate was bitter and charged that Washington had directly
interfered in the election and had used every influence "over con-
tractors, deputies, dependants and expectants."12
Besides the public attempts to split the "Nucleus" from the Jack-
son administration, White had been moving against that faction
behind the scenes. Working with William Wyatt and the Indian
Agent Gad Humphries, he was attempting to discredit Governor
DuVal and prevent his reappointment by Jackson. White first for-
warded to Jackson a list of charges by Wyatt against DuVal. Wyatt
was a little known, maverick politician who was very active in
White's behalf. The charges which he made accused DuVal of
favoritism, misappropriation of funds, fraud in the handling of In-
dian gifts, carelessness in the preservation of public records, negli-
gence of official duties, and general maladministration. Jackson
retorted that Wyatt was a man of very bad character and that White
should either prefer charges himself or forget the matter. On White's


_ __


73









insistence, however, Jackson examined the proofs presented and
came to the conclusion that no impropriety existed in DuVal's con-
duct.13
DuVal and the "Nucleus" counterattacked. Richard C. Allen
wrote to Jackson that White was league with an "inconsiderable"
party in Florida opposed to the administration. Romeo Lewis, Al-
len's partner and sheriff of Leon County, wrote in DuVal's behalf
as did Call and, of course, DuVal himself. As a result Jackson
showed his confidence in DuVal by giving him an interim reap-
pointment until Congress should convene. In the meantime, DuVal
prepared a body blow at Delegate White.14 In July rumors were
current that DuVal was planning to order another election for
Delegate to Congress, and on the tenth of August the Floridian
carried the news that he had indeed ordered a new election.15 He
had seized upon a technicality of the law which required the sub-
mission of lists of voters along with the returns and had thrown
out enough votes to cause a tie between White and Gadsden. On
the pretext that no one had been elected the governor had ordered
the new canvass. What Call's precise role was in this farce is not
clear. DuVal, however, had removed the returns to Call's office
"for safety," and presumably the rejection of certain returns was
done there. Incredulous, White exploded that DuVal "admits he
removed the returns to the office of my greatest personal, and politi-
cal enemies, for safetylI"16
This bold move by DuVal was nonetheless a colossal failure.
White chose to ignore the second election and was seated by the
House on the basis of the first one; even so the new election resulted
in his victory with a more decisive majority. But the war was not
over. In the Senate DuVal's name was presented for appointment
for another regular three-year term on December 7, 1831. On the
ninth Ezekiel F. Chambers of Maryland rose to present White's
charges of malversationn and corruption" against DuVal. They were
referred to the Committee on the Judiciary which conducted an
investigation. Among the witnesses who testified before the com-
mittee was Call, who spoke in favor of DuVal and reportedly de-
clared that thirteen of the sixteen members of the Legislative
Council also favored the reappointment. In April, 1832, the com-
mittee reported that the charges were not substantiated and that
"his nomination ought to be confirmed," which the Senate did on
the thirtieth.17


Richard IKeith Call


74








To the "Nucleus" Go the Spoils 75

By this time the campaign for the election of 1833 was underway
and alterations were taking place within the "Nucleus." To some
extent the changes in the "Nucleus" reflected shifts in the national
alliance which had carried Jackson to the presidency. Two hostile
factions had taken shape within the Democratic party during the
first year of his administration. One had pressed Calhoun's claims
to the succession and the other supported Van Buren. Some of
Call's associates in Florida were admirers or adherents of Calhoun
and resented the decline of his influence after the cabinet was dis-
solved in 1831 and Jackson personally broke with him. This prob-
ably produced some discord within the "Nucleus," despite the
personal admiration which many of its members also felt for Jack-
son, for some of these men did not like Van Buren, whose interests
were now in the ascendancy, or the old Crawford faction with
which Van Buren had been allied. The Peggy Eaton affair had been
one incident symptomatic of the party division, with the Calhoun
forces leading the ostracism of the Secretary of War's wife and the
Van Buren forces posing, with Jackson, as her defenders. Call seems
not to have suffered much diminution of prestige at the White
House by his enmity toward Eaton, possibly because his opposition
to Berrien, a Calhoun man, served to cancel out any hard feelings
which Jackson may have entertained toward him for his attitude
toward Eaton.
Further strains in the national Jacksonian alliance were apparent
in 1832. The major events of that year were the nullification con-
troversy and Jackson's veto of the recharter of the Bank of the
United States. The reaction to both events caused changes in Florida
politics, generally serving to increase the factionalism as men took
opposing sides on the national issues of bank, nullification, the
nature of the Union, and presidential prerogatives. %For all practical
purposes, 1833 was the last year in which the "Nucleus" was able
to act as a political force with any semblance of unity. \
Local issues also entered into the increase of factionalism. In
part the decline of the "Nucleus" reflected the growing diversifica-
tion of interests among propertied men in Florida. By the 1830's the
land office was ceasing to be a center of attraction for ambitious
men seeking their fortunes. Banking and railway corporations were
rising in importance and were seeking their attention and resources.
Pensacola, Tallahassee, and St. Augustine each had rather impor-
tant banks, and railroad schemes were projected in virtually every


_ _I_ __ __ __







76


Richard Keith Call


populated place in the territory. Competition for the favors of the
territorial government divided propertied groups among themselves
and promoted sectionalism. Late in the thirties the statehood move-
rment also promoted factionalism and sectionalism. In prosperous,
populous Middle Florida where statehood sentiment was strong the
politically articulate groups were anxious to be free of federal con-
trol. In East Florida, less populous and ravaged by Indian warfare,
statehood was opposed by many influential men on the grounds that
Florida could not yet financially sustain a state government and
needed continued material benefits from the federal government.
Much the same sentiment prevailed in West Florida, where there
was also some feeling for annexation to Alabama.
Though no sharp change is evident in the influence which lead-
ders of the old "Nucleus" exerted with the administration, the ap-
pointments to Florida posts after 1833 show the presence of other
influences. Call himself continued to be on good personal terms with
the president despite the gradual entry into Florida posts of men
personally repugnant to him. More and more after 1833 men sym-'
pathetic to Van Buren and hostile to local banking institutions be-
gan to appear in federal posts. It was from these men that the
Democratic party in Florida was to take its direction-not from
,Call and the old Jacksonian followers who had clustered around
the "Nucleus."
In 1832, however, the old Florida political alignments still main-
tained a degree of surface unity. Jeremy Robinson, visiting Call in
Tallahassee while en route to Havana, noted that party politics
were "distinguishable by the Gadsden and White interests, or the
administration and anti-administrationists." He noted it was com-
mon knowledge that the former group was led by Governor DuVal,
Call, and James D. Westcott, Jr., the territorial secretary8 The
surface unity was more apparent than real, for rival ambitions and
conflicting national and local interests threatened to tear the "Nu-
cleus" asunder. Benjamin D. Wright sought to preserve the alliance
by convincing Call that he should run for Congress as the only
candidate upon whom all could unite. Call gave his consent, but
became so discouraged by the dissension within the group that
he asked Wright to withhold his announcement as a candidate.
Wright, however, was not to give up his plan so easily and replied
that Call's request had not been received early enough to withhold
the announcement. He urged that there be no further delay in get-







To the "Nucleus" Go the Spoils


77


ting on with the campaign. "What you mistake for a want of hearti-
ness & zeal in your friends," he wrote, "is in fact but the want of
concert." He assured Call that
the opponents of honest Joe are almost unanimous in the
opinion that you are the only man who can beat him. In this
part of the Territory they would not go to the polls unless you
were a candidate. I must do those of our little caucus
who were themselves aspirants the justice to state that they
yielded their pretensions with as much grace as could have
been expected. I think they will support you. ....19

Call accepted the decision and made the race, but Gadsden and
many of his followers did not receive the new nominee with pleas-
ure. Call believed that his defeat in the race was in part the fault
of Gadsden.
Important national issues came up in the campaign in relation to
the nullification 3nntrnersy. In November, 1832, the new tariff bill
of thatyear was nullified by South Carolina. Jackson countered this
action with a ringing proclamation maintaining the supremacy of
the Union but committing himself to a theory of the nature of the
Union which frightened the state rights men among his followers.
Call supported the proclamation of the president and thereby un-
doubtedly lost some support. Gadsden did not publicly favor nulli-
fication at this time, but he ultimately broke with the Jacksonians
on that issue. Actually White was opposed to nullification as was
Call, but he tempered his views and claimed to be more in favor
of state rights than was Call. White also announced that he favored
Calhoun for the presidency but would accept Henry Clay before
he would support Martin Van Buren.20
The press, for the most part favorable to White, denounced Call
for his support of the president's views. "He goes the whole for the
proclamation and the enforcement bill," wrote the Floridian. "There
is no reservation in favor of State Rights We fear the General
has become infected with doctrines which, however current
they may be at Washington, are rather unsuited to this latitude."21
Call later modified and defined his views on the great controversy ,/
by assuming a position favorable to secession, but in opposition to
nullification. He conceded that secession was a technical right
which the states possessed but which he believed would be dis-
astrous if used.22


_ I __ __







Richard Keith Call


Call was subjected to an unmerciful campaign of criticism and
sheer personal abuse. He was accused of having used Gadsden to
head up the oppositiontoi Wlite, and was charged with having
made certain Gadsden could never be elected so that he could be
pushed aside when Call himself wished to run again. "It was not
convenient for him to offer," wrote a critic, "until the land office
'tit' was sucked dry: but now it seems, it no longer gives milk, and
he must take to rooting."23 Others brought up the Eaton and Berrien
affairs and taunted him for keeping silent when Jackson kept them
in the cabinet: "Verily this devotion 'surpasses the love of women'
-it not only is ready to sacrifice life, but honour."24 Call's critic
"Junius," who is believed to have been James D. Westcott, Jr.,
sought to establish that he had neither "the abilities, temper, char-
acter, or principles" to represent Florida in Congress.25
As might be expected, Call's connection with the land office came
under fire. In March, 1833, Jackson reappointed him to the post
of Receiver, indicating his disbelief in the criticisms of those who
claimed that Call had used the office "to oppress the citizens of
Florida" and to enrich himself.26 On the very eve of the election
a group of Jackson County men had published over a dozen charges
alleging serious maladministration by Call and Ward.27 Despite all
the unfavorable press there is indication that, at least in Tallahas-
see, sentiment for Call was strong. The violently partisan Floridian
felt constrained to print one letter in its columns favorable to Call.
That letter praised Jackson's course towards South Carolina, de-
fended Call, and stated that the writer was voting for him because
"he is the personal and political friend of Jackson."28
The most dramatic episode of the campaign was a duel between
Leigh Read and Oscar White. Read was the prote6g and law stu-
dent of Call and White was the nephew of Joseph M. White. Oscar
White's slighting remarks in public about Call brought a challenge
from Read. It was accepted and at the appointed time a great crowd
gathered to watch the encounter. Shots were exchanged and then
the two young men closed with knives. Rolling and tossing in the
dust, they fought until exhausted. Neither was killed.29
Call showed remarkable public restraint throughout the cam-
paign. He did suspect that White penned some scurrilous letters
but White hastened to assure him, "I do not intend to write
one line derogatory to your character. Shall I be under the
necessity of writing anything in relation to you it will be over the


78







To the "Nucleus" Go the Spoils


signature of your observant Jos. M. White."30 With the frustration
common to politicians who feel themselves persecuted by the press,
tCall declared that freedom of the press in Florida had degenerated
into licentiousness. He defended the "Nucleus," saying: ". .. the
motives and conduct of no men have been so much and so incessant-
ly the subject of misrepresentation and calumny, as those of the high
minded and honorable men, with whom it has been equally my
pride and my pleasure to act."31
White proved to be an unbeatable candidate in Florida and Call
went down before him in 1833 as Gadsden had done three times
before. Call felt that Gadsden's friends and the "nullifiers" had beat-
en him. Jackson read of the defeat of his former prote6g and de-
maiided, "... how this has happened I wish you to explain to me.
There are so many rumors of treachery in your ranks, and nullifiers
in your Territory, that I am anxious to be correctly informed, for
whatever good opinion I may entertain of individuals, I can never
invest one with office under the General Government... who would
nullify its laws and oppose their execution. Is it possible that our
friend Gadsden is a nullifier? and his political friends voted against
you, or did not vote at all."32 Gadsden asserted that he had not
opposed Call and blandly denied that he controlled any votes. He
coyly professed to believe that in his own campaigns Call's friends
had been perfectly free to support whom they chose. That he was a
nullifier was soon proved by his break with Jackson on that issue.33
/Another great issue in national politics, the Bank of the United
tStates, apparently had little immediate effect in Florida. President
\ackson had vetoed the recharter of that institution in July, 1832,
but its effects upon Florida politics were not felt for several years.
Little indignation was evidenced and Call privately approved of the
act, probably largely from personal loyalty to Jackson. Perhaps
there were other considerations, however, for Florida was feeling
the need of its own banks as its planters grew in wealth and its
speculators dreamed grander dreams. The Bank of Florida had been
chartered by the Legislative Council in 1828 and was followed in
1832 by the Central Bank of Florida. In this latter institution Call
was one of the superintendents of the subscription of stock.34
Numbers of smaller banks followed these, many of which never
opened. In 1831 the Bank of Pensacola was established followed by
the Union Bank of Tallahassee in 1833 and the Southern Life In-
surance and Trust Company at St. Augustine in 1835. These were


_


79









the "big three" of Florida banking. The board of directors of the
Union Bank read almost like a roster of the old "Nucleus." William
B. Nuttall, J. K. Campbell, Isham G. Searcy, and Leslie A. Thomp-
son were included on the list, and among the large stockholders
were Romeo Lewis, Richard C. Allen, George W. Ward, and James
Gadsden, but not Call. He owned no stock in any of the three big
banks, nor has evidence been found to indicate his ownership of
stock in any of the smaller banks.3" Yet the identification of a large
number of influential men with the local banks might tend to in-
crease the indifference which they and their associates felt about
the fate of the Bank of the United States, for local banking interests
all over the country resented the deflationary policies followed by
the Bank of the United States and joined with the "hard money"
men in opposition to the Bank. The demise of the Bank would turn
the business of the government to the state banks and would remove
the check which the national bank exerted on their inflationary
policies. It is not unreasonable to suggest that this climate of opinion
prevailed in Florida and that Call was affected by it. He was not a
hard money man, and had no doctrinaire antipathy to banks as such.
The new influences in the Jackson administration began to make
their presence known in Florida through the appointments which
were made in 1833 and after. In 1832 Jackson failed to reappoint
two United States Judges in Florida who had become obnoxious to
the "Nucleus." These were Joseph L. Smith in East Florida and
Henry M. Brackenridge in West Florida.36 Brackenridge was Call's
old law partner but had drifted away from the "Nucleus" and be-
come a close friend of White. Both judges were indignant and
Brackenridge charged, "The secret malice of an ignorant, con-
ceited, and avaricious pettifogger, who happens to bask in the sun-
shine of General Jackson's favor, has succeeded in removing honest
and independent Judges, who possessed the confidence of the peo-
ple."37 Smith declared that a secret petition had been circulated
against him by Charles Downing, "a person of bad character, but
a member of the bar of East Florida."38 Downing and Joseph San-
chez were two of Call's leading adherents in East Florida. Sanchez
had been prominent in earlier attempts to remove Judge Smith.
Though Call and old "Nucleus" leaders may have been instru-
mental in impressing Jackson unfavorably with Smith and Bracken-
ridge, it seems doubtful that they influenced the selection of the
new judges .Robert Raymond Reid of Augusta, Georgia, was named


80


Richard Keith Call







To the "Nucleus" Go the Spoils


to the East Florida post and John A. Cameron of North Carolina
went to the West Florida post. The appointment of Reid was the
more important one. He was a member of the old Crawford faction
and was warmly sympathetic to Van Buren. More important, he was
very critical of the inflationary state banking people.39 It does not
appear likely that White had anything to do with the appointments,
but he did exult that "The Nucleus is no longer the hive from
whence swarms of officers go forth to suck honey from Treasury
blossoms."40
Reid was a remarkable man: an urbane scholar, a gentleman, an
intellectual who shrewdly evaluated his fellow men; he analyzed his
own mind, dissected his vices with philosophic resignation, and
wrestled with religious dogma, always wanting to believe but never
quite able to do so. In his calm introspection, his tact, his discretion,
his humanitarian impulses, his shrinking from physical exertion, he
resents a picture of a man quite opposite in temperament from
all. It is worth noting that Reid was ever on friendly terms with
Call, though he differed with him politically, and from Reid's diary
come some of the most favorable evaluations of Call.
In January, 1833, Reid arrived in Tallahassee for the session of
the Court of Appeals. It was his first trip to the territorial capital
and his diary reflects his initial impressions. The banking fever
was in the air and the judge observed, "There is a passion for bank
making existing at present in the Territory, which must prove
injurious to the general interests. Banks must be founded upon
capital to be useful, and the idea of making the capital the super-
structure and the bank the basis, is erroneous. Such schemes are
fit only for the brains of speculators."41
Reid agreed with Call on the nullification controversy and was
contemptuous of the extreme state-rights viewpoint. "I think we
shall have a row," he wrote, "but the Union will weather it-no
thanks to the South Carolina aspirants."42 Reid did not care for the
.associates of Call in the old "Nucleus" group and particularly de-
spised Governor DuVal. On first meeting he judged the governor
to be a weak man, lacking in dignity. His chief virtue was found to
be that "his friends say he is a fine story teller!"43 After a two-year
acquaintance Reid confided to his diary, "Duval is a ninny."44
The Georgian wholeheartedly shared Call's veneration for Andrew
Jackson. Looking back on Jackson's first administration, Reid ap-
proved of his attack upon the Bank, which he thought to be "a


__


81







82


Richard Keith Call


dangerous machine," and he wrote of the president, "D-n him, he
frocks and unfrocks at pleasure, but he is a magnificent fellow and
the best Constitutional president since the days of Jefferson, who
was himself not sinless."45
Reid reserved his most devastating criticism for the society of
frontier Tallahassee. After the ending of the term of the Court of
Appeals in 1833, he summed up his impressions:
I have seen a noisy senseless crowd; a legislative council
with little wisdom, a fashionable circle with little taste ..
a Governor's daughter, pretty, rouged, and sour; a Governor,
shallow, blasphemous, and coarse; a Secretary, (sometimes
Governor) rough, factious, and egotistical; Col Murat's
wife-Queen of Naples-queenly indeed-lovely, but conscious
of her beauty and rank; General Call and Lady, highminded,
unsophisticated, and good-hearted; ... Judge Randall, chival-
rous, intelligent, and opinionated; Judge Cameron, Scotch!
Scotch! Scotch!46

Throughout the diary run favorable impressions of Call. Reid
thought Call to be a good lawyer, and after hearing him in court
would note in his diary that he had heard a good argument from
the general. He was always happy to receive a visit from Call, who
was often in St. Augustine during 1833, 1834, and 1835 in connec-
tion with the land cases. The judge noted that Call was always a
sensible man while his friend Downing was witty and smart, "but
neither studies nor thinks enough."47
The second important Florida appointment which shows the de-
clining influence of the "Nucleus" was the appointment in 1834 of
Call's old enemy, John Henry Eaton, as governor. Call's opponents
were gleeful at this turn of events and Joseph M. White was not
reluctant to take credit for the selection. Achille Murat told James
Gadsden, "The appointment and particularly the confirmation of
Eaton were all his [White's] doings with a view to the prostration
of Call and he made no mistery with me in the delight of his suc-
cesses."48 The "success" was hardly a smashing White victory; and
it may be that White actually had very little to do with it, for at
the same time that Eaton was appointed Call's cousin and business
partner, George K. Walker, was madrdsecretary of the territory.
James D. Westcott, Jr., the former secretary, had been getting in-
creasingly troublesome to DuVal and Call. Westcott was an anti-







To the "Nucleus" Go the Spoils


bank, Van Buren man, however, and was merely shifted to the post
of district attorney for Middle Florida.49
Eaton did not sit out the entire term for which he was appointed.
He arrived on December 11, 1834, to assume his duties and re-
mained the nominal Governor of Florida until March 16, 1836. He
was absentfrom Florida much of the time and the gubernatorial
duties devolved upon Secretary Walker. The glamorous Peggy could
not bear Tallahassee and spent most of her time in Pensacola. She
left Florida for good, however, only three months after their ar-
rival.50 Soon after the new governor and his wife first appeared
Reid was in the capital and noted, "The latter place is full of filth-
of all genders.... Gov. E. is a rowdy-his wife drunk or crazy, and
several other ladies but so-so." Again there were kind words for
Call, "Call and his wife are clever and indeed excellent
people."51
During Eaton's administration the atomization of the "Nucleus"
became complete. Probably the loss of the governorship speeded the
b--iakup.iIndeed, it seems that if the death blow to the "Nucleus"
had been plotted it could not have been more effectively accom-
plished than by the failure to reappoint DuVal. In the election of
1835 the split was obvious with Gadsden and Nuttall as well as
White and Wyatt all in the race for the single seat in Congress.
Reid observed, "There is an Eastern and Western, and Middle
Party, a Call party, a White, a Nuttall, a Gadsden-the whole com-
munity from the point of the Peninsula to the St. Mary's and Pensa-
cola split up into bits. This should not be so-the party should di-
vide upon principle."52 Reid was to be one of a triumvirate around
which the next powerful coalition was to form.


_ __ ___ __


83














A Frontier Entrepreneur


SHE DECADE BEFORE THE Panic of 1837 was one of
expanding economic activity in Florida as well as the
nation as a whole. Opportunities for profit seemed limit-
less as new banks were launched, the amount of money in circula-
tion increased, and lands were bought up with great rapidity. From
older sections of the country came immigrants to the West and
South buying land and slaves and reaping quick profits from the
high prices of cotton. Call reported in 1830 that lands in Florida
had not yet attained their highest prices, but he foresaw a rapid
rise in the next few years. Even so, he declared, planters could
make from $200 to $300 per hand in one season.1
During these years Call's major interests were directed toward
business, professional, and political pursuits rather than planting.
He had become practically a one-man chamber of commerce in
extolling the virtues of Florida, however, and in persuading others
who were planters to make their homes in the new territory. He
had inspired the Marquis de Lafayette with enthusiasm for the
Middle Florida region where his gift township had been located. He
induced Prince Achille Murat to become a Florida planter and
resident, and he had done much work in spreading the fame of
Florida among Virginians who were leaving their exhausted lands
for virgin fields.
Lafayette toyed with visions of planting a colony of German im-
migrants upon his Florida lands and tried to impress upon Call
the desirability of white labor as opposed to Negro slave labor. The
French nobleman suggested employing the Germans in vineyards,
in silk culture, and in the growth of mulberry and olive trees. These,
he thought, would be valuable additions to the industry of Flori-
da.2 In 1831 he wrote to Call that a M. Delaporte had deter-
mined to purchase 370 acres in the township and settle about thirty
immigrants there.3 A few Europeans, probably French, actually
[ 84]








A Frontier Entrepreneur


did settle on the tract, but the utopian dreams of duplicating the
agrarian patterns of the Mediterranean were not successful.4
Call's friend and legal associate, William Wirt, was sold on Flori-
da at an early date and bought large tracts near Tallahassee about
1827. Wirt divided his land between his sons-in-law, Thomas Ran-
dall and Louis Goldsborough. The latter encouraged him to under-
take a settlement scheme similar to that contemplated by Lafayette,
and the aged Virginian soon became quite enthusiastic over his
Florida ventures.5 He told his daughter, "I count sanguinely my-
self on settling a plantation and coming out to live. Florida
bids fair to become a perfect Arcadia."6 A few months later Gover-
nor DuVal visited Wirt and painted glowing pictures of the poten-
tialities of Florida for growing sugar cane and sea island cotton.7
Like Lafayette, Wirt wanted no Negroes in his model settlement.
As the idea matured in his mind it took on patriarchal, almost medi-
eval aspects, and his plans sound more fitted for a manor of the
middle ages than for a colonization project in the New World. The
colonists were to be Germans governed by Louis Goldsborough with
their spiritual needs cared for by their own Calvinist minister. Wirt
meticulously specified the layout of their village, to be called Wirt-
land, even detailing the games the children should play and the
avocations which should be fostered among the adults. Though he
detested the idea of Negro slaves being used, nonetheless his atti-
tude toward the Germans smacked of the outlook of a slaveholder.
He told his son-in-law, "You will have to exercise your authority,
occasionally, to settle their little disputes and keep them in good-
humour with each other. This, done gently, kindly and firmly, will
make them all revere and love you the more."8 To his wife he con-
fided, ". .. it will be, if Providence blesses the design, a most prince-
ly establishment for you and our children."9
Despite his cheerful enthusiasm for his castles in the air, Wirt
was not without his dubious moments. In one of these periods of
doubt he remarked to Call that no other person had succeeded in
Florida with a project such as he proposed to launch. Call, in his
role of promoter, dispelled all doubts and assured Wirt that "every-
body had succeeded who deserved to succeed." Wirt was heartened
and told Goldsborough, "Governor [sic] Call likes our plan. If
the Germans continue faithful, it is, he admits, a great and splendid
enterprise."10
Call, however, had put his finger upon a weak spot. About a hun-


_ __


85







86


Richard Keith Call


dred and fifty Germans were settled at Wirtland, but they soon lost
interest and abandoned their contracts. Wirt consoled himself with
the thought that since they had proved to be such "cattle" their
desertion was "quite a happy riddance."'1 He told Thomas Randall
that "those rascals having gone so far to play so ridiculous a caper
... seems to me rather more laughable than cryable."12
Among other prominent Virginians coming to Florida in this
period were Robert and John Gamble, and Thomas Brown. In the
thirties also came Dr. George W. Call and his family.13 The Gamble
brothers were brothers of Mrs. Wirt.14 Thomas Brown was later to ,
win fame as the only elected Whig Governor of Florida, and held
office during the crisis of 1850. Brown came from the Rappahan-
nock River region of Virginia in 1827 and settled near Lake Jack-
son north of Tallahassee. After the failure of his sugar plantation
there he moved to Tallahassee and devoted himself to business and
inn-keeping.15 The Gambles did not actively enter politics as did
Brown, but John Gamble became president of the Union Bank of
Tallahassee and later a leading member of the Whig party.9 Both
men were considered leaders in many walks of life.
In 1832 Call's old friend and Jackson's former Secretary of the
Navy, John Branch, arrived in Tallahassee.:" He, too, had been sold
on the charms of Florida and established a plantation on Lake
Jackson. He purchased a portion of his lands from Call and part
from Lafayette. Like Wirt, Branch was followed by his sons and
daughters. Two of his daughters married prominent men: one,
Daniel S. Donelson, a "Tennessee surveyor"; the other, Robert
W. Williams, the land speculator and member of the "Nucleus."
Two of Branch's sons, Joseph and L. O'B. Branch, were purchasers
of Tallahassee lots from Call.17
Call's business interests were more extensive, however, than sell-
ing land or promoting Florida's potentialities. He often acted as
agent in the sale of real estate; in 1832 he participated in the or-
ganization of the Central Bank of Florida; and in 1834 he was a
trustee of "Mrs. Brown's female school."18 He became one of four-
teen trustees of a proposed University of Florida in 1836, in which
capacity one of his functions was to convince Congress to put up
for immediate sale the lands which Florida would normally get
after statehood for the support of education.19 Call was evidently a
shrewd and competent businessman for he became known to some
people as a sharp bargainer. The Parkhill family transacted deals







A Frontier Entrepreneur


with him and George W. Parkhill testified to Call's hard bargaining.
Commenting on the sale of an estate in which both Call and John
Gamble of the Union Bank were interested, Parkhill wrote, "They
are great scoundrels-they will cheat each other."20
- Call's most important venture in the business world was in-the
field of transportation. As Middle Florida grew in population and
the produce of its plantations grew to sizable proportions, banking
and credit facilities were needed and access to world markets be-
came important. The planters who had access to the Apalachicola
River used that great artery to gain entry to the Gulf of Mexico.
There at the port of Apalachicola their cargoes were transferred to
waiting vessels for transshipment to the markets of Europe and
America. The planters of Leon County and the Tallahassee region,
however, had no great navigable stream opening a highway into
their midst and no great port from which to ship their produce.
The old Spanish fort of St. Marks, twenty miles south of Talla-
hassee, was the closest point from which these planters could em-
bark their goods. As yet there was no town there, and there were
no facilities except a few ramshackle buildings haphazardly put up
around the fort. The fort itself, presumed to be public property, was
in the area claimed by Colin Mitchel and his associates, so the resi-
dents there were unable to purchase land.21 In March, 1829, Call
wrote to the head of the General Land Office favoring steps toward
laying out a town at or near St. Marks. He stated that the make-
shift town was already becoming a commercial depot and that "the
imports and exports to and from this point are already considerable
and are increasing with great rapidity."22
The head of- he General Land Office, Graham, told Call that a
town could not be laid off without the express authority of Con-
gress, but that as a result of his representations he was ordering
Robert Butler, Surveyor General of Florida, to survey a town with
Call's cooperation. The plans would be presented to Congress for
action. This was done but Congress did not act until March, 1833.
At that time Congress authorized the laying off of a town but pro-
hibited the sale of lands until it should be definitely ascertained
that the site was not in the limits of any unsettled grant. This fur-
ther delayed the sale of lands but did not prevent the territorial
legislature from chartering the town of St. Marks in the same year.23
Meanwhile, a group of local men conceived the idea of construct-
ing a railroad from Tallahassee to the Gulf as a substitute for a


_ ___ __


87







Richard Keith Call


river which nature had neglected to provide them. Early in 1831 a
group of men met at the Planter's Hotel in Tallahassee and dis-
cussed the feasibility of a railway to St. Marks. As a result of this
meeting a charter was drawn up and presented to the Legislative
Council for enactment.24 Six men were behind this move among
whom were Robert W. Williams, Isham G. Searcy, and Thomas
Brown. Call was not associated with this first railroad scheme. The
Council modified this charter to eliminate certain monopoly features
and the next year issued a completely new charter, but nothing
resulted from either of these beginnings.25
A third railway project got underway on February 10, 1834, when
the Legislative Council chartered the Tallahassee Rail Road Com-
pany.26 The road was capitalized at $100,000, with the privilege of
increasing that to $200,000 if construction costs should make it
necessary. The corporation was headed by a board of seven direc-
tors who were empowered to choose from their number a president.
The directors were to be named annually by the stockholders. The
first election of directors was held on June 27 and Call was elected
to the board. The directors then named him president.27 There were
a hundred and ten stockholders, but Call appears to have had the
controlling interest. He directed the affairs of the railroad until he
disposed of his stock in 1855 to the Pensacola and Georgia Rail-
road.28
At the same time that the Tallahassee railroad was being
organized, the Union Bank was being formed. The concurrent
organization of these two corporations probably explains why Call
invested no money in bank stock. The founding of the bank was
looked upon as a necessary aid to the building of the railroad, how-
ever, for in 1834 the Floridian reported the sale of one million
dollars' worth of Union Bank stock and observed, ". we may now
calculate with certainty on the construction of a railway to St.
Marks; for the early completion of which, proper measures will be
immediately adopted.""29
In December the company petitioned Congress for aid in the form
of land grants. It asked the grant of a right-of-way two hundred
yards wide through the public lands from Tallahassee to St. Marks
and a hundred acre grant at St. Marks.30 In 1835 the Congress grant-
ed a sixty foot right-of-way and ten acres at the junction of the St.
Marks and Wakulla Rivers.31 Actual construction work began in
January, 1835, under the direction of John D. and William Gray,


I


88







A Frontier Entrepreneur


contractors of Columbia, South Carolina, who had participated in
the building of the Charleston and Hamburg Railroad. The brothers
contracted to build the road, the terminals, and to furnish two pas-
senger and twenty freight cars for $107,000.32
The contract was almost entirely lacking in precise specifications,
reflecting, perhaps, the general ignorance of railway building which
prevailed. Where ordinary conditions were encountered, five by nine
inch wooden rails were laid on eight by ten inch cross ties. On top of
the rails were laid strips of iron two and one-half inches wide and
one-half inch thick. The contract specified the use of the best
heart pine in construction, "on the most approved principal." No
provision was made for the acquisition of a locomotive.33
In November, 1837, the road was completed to St. Marks and
,was in operation for its full length. It was the second railway to
open in Florida, the first being the St. Joseph Railroad which began
operation in 1836. In the month in which it commenced operation
the Tallahassee corporation filed suit against the Gray brothers for
$50,000 damages. Eighteen breaches of contract were charged, sur-
mounted by the declaration that the Grays had built "the very
worse road known in the United States, in the worse possible man-
ner." The case, however, was dismissed several months later.34
The motive power of the road throughout Call's presidency was
mule or horse power. In December, 1837, the company bought a
locomotive as a result of an increase in business, but after several
trips the cap of the boiler exploded. The Floridian assured the pub-
lic that repairs would have the engine moving again before long.35
Apparently the locomotive was doomed, however, for a few days
later Call wrote to his mother-in-law, "We have taken the Locomo-
tives off of our Road, and intend never to use them again. We find
Horse power superior."36
The St. Marks site proved to be an unsatisfactory terminal to
the railway company because of shallow water and the prolonged
disputes about the ownership of the surrounding area. Consequent-
ly, in 1837 the directors determined to push on to a site near deeper
water where they could locate their ten-acre grant and lay out a
city. The new town was called Port Leon and lots were first offered
for sale there in 1838. The location was highly recommended by
the Floridian as one of the highest points on the St. Marks River
and as being particularly suited to business or summer residence.37
Call told his mother-in-law that it was just the place for her to


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90


Richard Keith Call


come to live with him and his daughters. "It is improving more
rapidly than any little place I have ever seen," he wrote, "and will
become the largest business place in Florida ... [and] will become
the fashionable part of the country."38
Call directed much personal attention to the new town and to
the operation of the railway and its subsidiary enterprises, a saw
miill and a grist mill. His promoter's zeal functioned full time pro-
claiming the virtues of these ventures. To foreign visitors who trav-
elled in Florida, however, Call's enthusiasm may have seemed
somewhat exaggerated. The Comte Francis de Castelnau found
little to admire in the railroad or in either Port Leon or St. Marks.
He depicted St. Marks as a town "wretchedly built" with streets
often covered by salt water from the river. He described Port Leon
as a low, submerged locality two leagues from St. Marks. Castelnau
agreed with the railway company's charges against the Gray brothers
and described the railroad as "the very worst that has yet been
built in the entire world."39
A New England visitor has left similar accounts. "Port Leon,"
he wrote, "is a new town but the houses (about 20 in number) are
about the meanest kind. The people Oh my! Law and
Justice are not in their vocabularies." He recorded that on the trip
from Port Leon to Tallahassee the train was derailed three times.40
Conditions had not improved by 1855, according to Earnest Malvern
writing in the Florida Sentinel. He was astonished that the railway
had no locomotive and questioned the Negro driver about the ab-
sence of that seemingly vital piece of equipment.
"They once had such a thing," the Negro replied, "but it ran
away one day; nobody could stop it. It went straight to St. Marks,
and roaring and hissing, it dashed plumb into the bay; and since
that they have never dared to try one." Malvern soon found that he
had little reason to regret the absence of a locomotive. He observed
the railway ahead of him gently undulating like the sea. The rails
in many instances were no longer attached to the cross ties, and
separated so that one wheel of the car was off in the sand. Occasion-
ally, he noted, there was no rail at all. The iron bands atop the
rails often were fastened only in the middle and the ends had a
tendency to curl upwards to such an extent that, as Malvern was
solemnly assured, Negroes sometimes had to run ahead of the trains
to hold down the ends of the bands until the car came upon them.
In the course of this epic journey the car came upon a section of


1







A Frontier Entrepreneur


the road which had been ignited by a forest fire. Malvern was
startled to see that they merely hurried on "like salamanders," the
driver protesting that he was not a fireman. When they came upon
a derailed freight train, the incredulous visitor abandoned the party
and walked on ahead to St. Marks.41
Despite comic opera aspects of the Tallahassee Rail Road Com-
.pany, it served as a means of transporting the cotton from Leon
County plantations to the Gulf for shipment abroad. With all its de-
fects the railroad was a more efficient mode of transportation than
the wagon trains that toiled along the sandy roads to the Gulf of
Mexico. The road carried the mail and an estimated 30,000 to 40,000
bales of cotton per year.42 Its labor was almost exclusively Negro
slaves, of whom the company owned twenty-five in 1840.43 The
Port Leon extension of the railroad was opened in 1839 and from
that date began an attempt on the part of the company to throttle
the town of St. Marks. The company closed the terminal at St.
Marks and eliminated that town as a freight stop on the road. Pas-
sengers could continue to get off and on at that town but freight
had to be handled through Port Leon. Had this policy been effective
it would virtually have forced the entire town of St. Marks to move
to the Port Leon location. The railroad company might then sell
them land there and be assured of the successful operation of its
terminal facilities.44
The mill operations of the road were money-making propositions
adding to its success. A steam engine, perhaps the one removed
from road operation, powered the mills which Call valued at $30,-
000. The saw and grist mills were both operated from the single
steam engine. The saw mill delivered six to eight thousand feet of
lumber daily which, in 1840, sold for $25 per thousand feet.45 The
mills were, however, destroyed by a fire in May, 1840. It was set by
one of the slaves belonging to the firm.46
In the fall of 1843 a major disaster struck the company when
Port Leon and the railway extension to it were totally destroyed by
a hurricane. The drawbridge across the St. Marks river, viewed
locally as something of a wonder, was completely washed away as
was the railroad itself for a good distance above St. Marks. The
Sentinel reported, "The rail-road bridge was found some distance
up the river, an entire bridge yet, but injudiciously placed."47 In the
midst of the hard times of that year, the newspaper correctly pre-
dicted that Port Leon would be abandoned and the railroad would


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91







92


Richard Keith Call


be rebuilt only as far as St. Marks.48 Some of the merchants of both
towns withdrew to a new location even farther inland, which they
named Newport. Call's company refused to cooperate with them in
rebuilding the road and built it back to its old terminus at St.
Marks.49
Aside from his land sales and legal practice, the railroad was
the most important business venture in which Call was engaged.
When he rid himself of his interest in the corporation in 1855, most
of his law practice had been abandoned and he long since had
ceased to hold public office. After 1845 he increasingly turned his
attention to the development of his plantation on Lake Jackson
which he turned into one of the finest establishments in Middle
Florida. There were, however, minor business ventures through
these years. In 1848 he was a member of a partnership which estab-
lished a ferry across the Apalachicola River at Chattahoochee, and
in 1851 he served as a Commissioner to receive stock subscriptions
for the Florida, Atlantic, and Gulf Central Railroad Company and
for the Leon and Gadsden plank road company. Such things were,
however, side activities of little importance. From 1836 on, Call's
major interests increasingly were planting and politics. They were
unquestionably his major interests in the decade of the fifties."5














War and Politics


N THE FALL OF1835 Richard and Mary Call were in Wash-
ington where Call was clearing up some details of his land
office work at the General Land Office. Mary did not spend all
her time in Washington despite the fact that they were house guests
of President Jackson. Nine-year-old Ellen was at school in Franklin,
Maryland, and relatives in Baltimore were anxious for Mary's com-
pany. So while her husband conducted his business she visited in
the neighboring towns, often accompanied by Emily Donelson.1
Whether Jackson and Call talked about a replacement for John
Eaton, who was becoming restive as governor of Florida, is not
known. Rumors soon spread, however, that the governorship had
been discussed and Robert Reid heard that it would be offered to
Call. Apparently Call had offered to recommend Reid for thatpost
for the latter told him, ". you may probably be embarrassed, in
consequence of what has been understood between us respecting
that appointment," but he insisted that Call not allow any considera-
tion to deter him from taking the post if offered to him. Reid mag-
nanimously wrote, "The success of my friend is and has ever been
as gratifying to me as my own."2
Speculation about the governorship was soon overshadowed, how-
ever, by the growing unrest among the Florida Indian tribes. When
the United States came into the possession of Florida the Indians
had been free to roam virtually unmolested throughout most of
the peninsula, and many of their towns were located in the most
desirable portions of the territory. Under the English and Spanish
governments they had enjoyed many important privileges and had
been subjected to few restrictions. In the face of the loud demands
of American citizens who were seeking homes and land in the new
territory, however, it was inconceivable that the old system should
be continued by the federal government. It became imperative for
the government to formulate policies to dispossess the Indians of the
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