Marcos de Villiers

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See also: Panton-Innerarity family

Marcos de Villiers
Occupation Spanish military officer
Spouse Victoria Marie Josephine Grifon d'Anneville
Children Marie Victoria
Marie Josepha

Lieutenant Colonel Jean Marcos Coulon Jumonville de Villiers was an officer of Spanish Pensacola at the time of its transfer to the United States in 1821. He was the father-in-law of John Innerarity (by his daughter Marie Victoria[1]) and Arnaldo Guillemard (by his daughter Marie Josepha). He was commandant of San Marcos de Apalache, among other posts.

De Villiers Street (and, by extension, the Belmont-DeVilliers neighborhood) is named for Marcos de Villiers.

Background & career[edit]

De Villiers came from a famous French military family, being the son of François Coulon de Villiers and nephew of Louis Coulon de Villiers and Joseph Coulon de Jumonville. His latter uncle and namesake had been killed after surrendering to George Washington at the Battle of Jumonville Glen, which sparked the French and Indian War.

Marcos, along with his own brothers Carlos and Louis, served under Bernardo de Gálvez in the 1781 Mobile and Pensacola campaigns.[2] He settled in Spanish-controlled Pensacola thereafter.

Banishment & arrest[edit]

After the transfer of Florida to the United States in 1821, former Spanish Governor Jose Callava was arrested by Governor Andrew Jackson for a failure to remit certain official papers to the American government. A group of thirteen Spanish officers, which included de Villiers and his son-in-law Guillemard, wrote a "Declaration of many respectable witnesses of what passed," which enumerated a number of what they perceived to be injustices perpetrated by Jackson on the Spanish population. No action was taken at the time, but when a newspaper published an anonymous advertisement critical of Jackson and his deputy Henry Brackenridge, Jackson ordered the banishment of de Villiers, Guillemard and six other signatories of the previous declaration[3] on September 29, 1821.[4]

The group accepted the banishment and relocated to Cuba, but de Villiers returned with his son-in-law four months later, on January 2, 1822, while Jackson was in Nashville. They appealed to acting Governor George Walton for enough time in the city to retrieve their families and set their private affairs in order, with the following memorial:

That your memorialists, with other Spanish officers, were, by the proclamation of his Excellency Andrew Jackson, Governor of the Floridas, issued on the 29th of September last, ordered to quit the Floridas within three days thereeafter, for reasons therein assigned. That your memorialists, in obedience to the said proclamation, withdrew from the said provinces, and repaired to the island of Cuba; and that, after being there some time, they found themselves compelled, from the situation of their private affairs, and the illness of a part of their families, to return to this country. That, in so doing, nothing was further from their intention than any disrepect to the constituted authorities of this province, whose determinations they declare themselves ready to observe and obey so long as they remain in the same. But they beg leave respectfully to represent, that, at the same time, they are Spanish officers, they and their families have also been inhabitants of this country for many years; and that they are owners of real and personal property here to a considerable amount. That, by the fifth article of the treaty, the inhabitants of the ceded provinces who may desire to remove to the Spanish dominions, shall be permitted to sell or export their effects at any time whatever, without being subject, in either case, to duties. That your memorialists are desirous to remove with their families to the Spanish dominions, and that, unless permitted to remain here, and superintend in person these necessary arrangements, they will be exposed to serious loss and injury. Your memorialists therefore pray, that, taking the circumstances into consideration, and especially their solemn declaration that they return, not as Spanish officers, but as private individuals, on private business, and with every disposition to obey and respect the existing authorities, they may be permitted to remain for the purpose of settling their affairs, and making the necessary arrangements for the removal of their families.[4]

Walton considered imprisoning them in the calaboose, but instead confined them to their homes, writing the following letter to Jackson for further instruction:[3]

A few days ago, two of the Spanish officers. Colonel Marcos de Villiers, generally called Colonel Coulon, and Arnaldo Guillemard, arrived here in a vessel from Havana. It was first intimated to me that they had resigned their commissions in the Spanish service; but were arrested by my order, and brought before me, they declared they had come with the intention of asking permission to attend in person to the settlement of their private affairs, and the removal of their families. They solemnly declared, that they had not returned in defiance of the proclamation, which they had promptly obeyed, and that they are ready to submit themselves to any order which should be taken in their case. For the present, I ordered them into confinement; but the calaboze being in no condition to receive them, for, excepting the officer's room, it has no fire-place; and as Coulon is a very old man, and his wife, at this time extremely ill, I thought it best to confine them in their own houses. The situation of old Coulon was such, that it would have been cruel to confine him in the dungeon with the common malefactors; and I could not, with propriety, make a distinction with respect to Guillemard. They then presented the enclosed memorial, in which they throw themselves on the mercy of the government.

After these concessions, and the humble manner in which they sue to be permitted to remain, I was well convinced that you would have granted them the indulgence they prayed for. But, under my instructions, although a state of things was presented by the returning sense of propriety on the part of these people, different from what is contemplated in these instructions, yet, I did not consider myself authorized to go any farther than to continue them in the same confinement until further orders. I was well convinced that, while on the one hand you were determined to cause the government provisionally established over these provinces to be respected by every one living under it; and, as far as you were concerned, to cause the stipulations of the treaty to be enforced; yet, I also knew, from the magnanimity of your disposition, that you would instantly relent on the first manifestation of respect to the government, and submission to its determinations. This course, however, was not adopted by me until after consultation with Colonels Fenwick and Clinch, Major Denkins, and Judge Brackenridge, who all concurred in the opinion, that this was, under all circimistances, the most proper.[4]

When word of the men's return reached Jackson, who had already resigned his official authority as governor, he wrote to Secretary of State John Quincy Adams on January 21, 1822:

Enclosed, I send you an extract of a letter from Col. George Walton, Secretary of West Florida, and charged with exercising the powers of governor of the same, in my absence, with its enclosure. Having received from the President of the United States his letter bearing date the 31st December last, post-marked at the city of Washington, the 9th instant, notifying me that my resignation was accepted, forecloses me from giving to Col. Walton any instructions officially, and have thought proper to refer him to the President for directions, as to the proper course to be pursued with regard to those Spanish officers. Col. Coulon [Villiers] is father-in-law to John Innerarity. Guillemard is a very base and treacherous man, being the same who piloted the British up Bayou Bienvenue, in the year 1815, then an officer of Spain, when the attempt was made upon New Orleans by General Packenham.[4]

The two prisoners petitioned the United States Congress. On February 20, 1822 their complaint was read before the Senate, but tabled on a motion by Senator James Barbour.[5] Two days later, on February 22, an order by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams released Guillemard and de Villiers.[3]