Federal, that is

It’s a word you don’t tend to see each and every day.

Maybe not each and every year.

Maybe not even each and every decade.

The word is “synoptic.”

It means “affording a general view of a whole or manifesting” or “characterized by comprehensiveness or breadth of view.”

Now… tell the truth… when’s the last time you came across that in your reading?

But boy oh boy … The Legal Genealogist was delighted to come across that word yesterday.

Florida indexIn the title to a book: A Synoptical Index to the Laws and Treaties of the United States of America, from March 4, 1789, to March 3, 1851: With References to the Edition of the Laws, Published by Bioren and Duane, and to the Statutes at Large, Published by Little and Brown, Under the Authority of Congress.1

Whew.

Talk about a mouthful.

Now, with a name like that, you might be wondering what possible use it could be.

Well… let’s see here. I’m headed off this weekend to speak at the Pinellas Genealogy Society’s 2018 Seminar in Largo, Florida, so let’s see what the book might tell us about Florida and how federal laws might have impacted our ancestors there.

How about the facts that:

• The U.S. government appropriated $100,000 in 1821 to put its treaty with Spain over Florida into effect. 3 Stat. 639 (3 March 1821).2

• In 1826, Congress said the lands of non-residents in Florida couldn’t be taxed at a higher rate than lands of residents. 4 Stat. 167 (15 May 1826).3

• In 1826, the government appropriated $20,000 for sustenance for Florida Indians. 4 Stat. 194 (22 May 1826). 4

• In 1834, payment was authorized for damage done by United States troops in 1812 and 1813. 4 Stat. 677 (26 June 1834).5

• In 1836, Congress directed that rations be delivered to the suffering citizens of Florida. 5 Stat. 131 (1 February 1836).6

• In 1838, Dr. Henry Perrine and his associates were given a township of land to cultivate tropical plants in East Florida. 5 Stat. 302 (7 July 1838).7

• In 1839, three light vessels were to cruise along the coast of Florida. 5 Stat. 358 (3 Mar 1839).8

• In 1841, the government ponied up $1,000 for “two keepers of the archives in Florida, 5 Stat. 428 (3 March 1841), and $6,043 for procuring the archives of Florida. 5 Stat. 431 (3 March 1841).9

• In 1844, two lots were granted to the city of Fernandina for purposes designated by the Spanish government. 5 Stat. 667 (15 June 1844).10

• And in 1845 Florida was declared to be a State. 5 Stat. 742 (3 March 1845).11

With the citations — the volume number and page number of the U.S. Statutes at Large — it’s really a simple matter to go to one of the online sources for the laws and read the statute in full,12 and each of those laws has a story to tell.

In every case, at least part of the story is told in the statutes themselves. The rations to Florida citizens in 1836 were, by law directed to “unfortunate sufferers, who are unable to provide for themselves, and who have been driven from their homes by Indian depredations in Florida, until they can (be) re-established in their possessions, or so long as the President shall consider it necessary.”13

Sometimes it’s necessary to go further to find out what we really want to know. In the case of the sustenance to the Florida Indians, for example, a letter to the President from the Secretary of War dated 14 February 1826, and sent on by the President to Congress read, in part: “… the country to which those Indians have emigrated is not suited either in soil or salubrity to their preservation…; meanwhile, … humanity demands that they should be kept from starving. They are where they are by our seeking, and their country was exchanged, as is usually the case, by treaty, doubtless, with an ignorance on their part of the nature of that to which they consented to emigrate, and erroneous information on ours, as to its fitness.”14

Now we could go volume by volume in the statutes and find the federal laws that impacted life in early Florida.

Or we could do it the easy way — by looking at an index of those federal laws that impacted life in early Florida — and everywhere else — in one place… in a presentation form that can only be described as … well… synoptic.


SOURCES

  1. A Synoptical Index to the Laws and Treaties of the United States of America, from March 4, 1789, to March 3, 1851: With References to the Edition of the Laws, Published by Bioren and Duane, and to the Statutes at Large, Published by Little and Brown, Under the Authority of Congress (Boston: Little Brown, 1852); digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 19 Feb 2018).
  2. Ibid., 26.
  3. Ibid. at 437.
  4. Ibid., 47.
  5. Ibid. at 308.
  6. Ibid. at 308.
  7. Ibid. at 309.
  8. Ibid. at 524.
  9. Ibid. at 105.
  10. Ibid. at 310.
  11. Ibid. at 310.
  12. See Judy G. Russell, “Finding the feds,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 13 Apr 2017 (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 19 Feb 2018).
  13. Resolution No. 1, 5 Stat. 131 (1 February 1836).
  14. John Quincy Adams to the Congress, 1 March 1826, in H. Niles, editor, Niles’ Weekly Register, vol. 30 (Baltimore : p.p., 1826), 29, entry of March 11, 1826; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 19 Feb 2018).
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