Debitage of the Shatter Zone: The Context of Requests for Friars and Petitions of Asylum in 17th-Century Florida

Sunday, January 5, 2020: 10:30 AM
Central Park West (Sheraton New York)
Amy Turner Bushnell, John Carter Brown Library
In the Eastern Woodlands, every town conducted its own diplomacy and every alliance was conditional. The Republic of Indians in the Provinces of Florida, unique in having three sets of law–the law of God, of the king, and of towns--privileged the third kind, under which the señores naturales de la tierra managed the community’s lands, fields, public works, labor force, granaries, trade, connection to the sacred, and militia practice, which kept the men in fighting condition. If a member of the Republic of Spaniards encroached upon a Christian town’s territory, food reserves, or manpower, its caciques could sue for justice on the basis of customary indigenous law. After the conquest by the sword was replaced by a conquest by the Gospel, the only way to advance the frontier was to induce the lords of the land to make a formal request for friars and let their towns be turned into centers of indoctrination. A request for friars, a legal instrument subject to being falsified or retracted, fell into disuse between 1685 and 1715, when the mission provinces were engulfed by the Shatter Zone of militarized slave raiding. What took its place was the petition of asylum, which led to the refugee pueblo, a form of client community. In the Spanish system, a refugee pueblo was a misplaced mission, and a refugee was a persecuted Catholic or a would-be Catholic seeking sanctuary. In the eighteenth century these categories would break down, as it became clear that Indian towns, Christian or infiel, had no choice but to connect themselves to a dependable source of firearms and ammunition.
Previous Presentation | Next Presentation >>