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The first British Governor in Alabama is rarely mentioned in textbooks

THE FIRST BRITISH GOVERNOR IN ALABAMA

Major Robert Major

Over two-hundred and fifty years ago, in 1763, British troops commanded by Major Robert Farmar raised the Union Jack over Mobile’s Fort Conde on October 20, 1763. Little attention has been given to the British period of our history in Alabama textbooks which lasted nearly twenty years and “possessed great international significance, beginning and ending as it did in worldwide conflict and the creation of a new and lasting nation.”i


Fort Conde

THE FIRST GOVERNOR

Major Robert Farmar

When George III, came to the throne in 1760, England was anticipating war with Spain, William Pitt, demanded a pre-emptive strike in 1761, but failing to persuade his cabinet colleagues, he resigned. the earl of Bute became the chief minister and he was determined to have peace, but Spain did not cooperate. Thanks to William Pitt’s plans, England prepared to take Spanish owned New Orleans, Mobile, and Pensacola.With Canada already in British hands, the whole continent of North America would be in English hands. First, George Keppel, Earl of Albemarle, was named to head an expedition against Havana.

Structures and layout of Fort Louis de la Mobile.The fort was later moved and renamed Fort Conde. Under Spanish rule it was known as Fort Carlota, and under British and American rule it was known as Fort Charlotte.

The 34th Regiment was embarked at Portsmouth on February 26, 1762, and sailed from England on March 5. Lieutenant Colonel Reed was assigned to the staff of the 3rd Brigade and the nine companies and 976 men of the 34th were under the command of Major Robert Farmar. After a successful campaign against Havana, negotiations for peace moved rapidly in the fall of 1762. Spain agreed to forfeit Florida in exchange for Havana. At the same time, France, ceded her claims east of the Mississippi to Great Britain and offered all land west of that river to her ally Spain. The city of New Orleans and the adjacent Isle of Orleans was excluded from the British acquisition in the Treaty of Paris.

By the Treaty of Paris in 1763, Great Britain became the possessor of half the North American continent, including the city of Mobile. Some of the Spanish and French settlers in and around Mobile migrated across the Mississippi, but a few remained and accepted that they were now subjects of the King of England.

On October 20, 1763, Major Robert Farmer seized the city of Mobile from the French and renamed Fort Conde as Fort Charlotte in honor of Queen Charlotte of England.

The act of transfer was conducted with appropriate ceremonies. Bagpipes sounded the national anthem of England, as the lilies of St. Denys were lowered from the flag-staff of Fort Conde, and the lion of St. Goerge elevated in their stead: and a feu de joie announced that the name of the fortress would be changed.

Soon afterward, the portion of the province west of the Perdido, as far as Pearl River, was established as Charlotte County; and appropriate judicial and ministerial officers were appointed.

Major Robert Farmar

Major Farmer became the acting governor of Mobile and ruled Mobile with military discipline until the arrival of Gov. George Johnstone on December 1, 1764, and “even then maintained the independence of the military from the civil government.” This led to continual and bitter disputes between Johnstone and Farmer. General Gage, finally tired of the accusations against Farmer and ordered a court-martial of Farmer. The court-martial was not held until March 16, 1768, and lasted thirty-eight days. Because of his courageous military career, Major Farmer benefited from the trial by his military peers and was acquitted.

Farmer retired to his plantation, Farm Hall, on the Tensaw. He was the first resident of Stockton. While residing in Mobile, Farmer lived on the northeast corner of St. Emanuel and Government streets. He continued to be involved in the government until he died in 1778, shortly after a visit by the celebrated naturalist, William Bartram. He was buried in Mobile but his burial place is unknown.

When Don Galvez of Spain, captured Mobile later, many houses were burned, including Major Farmer’s home along with valuable papers.

The period of British possession embraced twenty years which included the era of the American Revolution. When the British left some years afterward, they carried with them all the documents referring to the period and deposited them in Somerset House, London, “where according to positive information,” says the Spanish Surveyor General, Vincent Pintado, they were to be found in 1817 and undoubtedly still remain. (Transactions of the Alabama Historical Society, at the Annual Meeting …: July 14, 1851; July 9th & 10th, 1855, J. W. & J. F. Warren)

The following description of Major Robert Farmer has been transcribed from Transactions of the Alabama Historical Society, at the Annual Meeting …: July 14, 1851; July 9th & 10th, 1855, J. W. & J. F. Warren

“The first British governor of Alabama, Major Robert Farmer, appears to have been a personage of marked peculiarities of character, and if we may credit the portraiture of a French contemporary at New Orleans, would form a not unfit companion-piece for the Knickerbocker functionaries of Irving,—Walter Von Twiller, and Peter Stuyvesant. Aubry, writing to the French government, (May 16, 1765.) says: “The correspondence which I am obliged to have with the English, who write to me from all parts, and particularly with the governor of Mobile, gives me serious occupation. This governor is an extraordinary man. As he knows that I speak English, he occasionally writes to me in verse. He speaks to me of Francis I. and Charles V. He compares Pontiak, an Indian chief, to Mithridates; he says that he goes to bed with Montesquieu. When there occur some petty difficulties between the inhabitants of New Orleans and Mobile, he quotes to me from the Great Charter (Magna Charta) and the laws of Great Britain. It is said that the English Ministry sent him to Mobile, to get rid of him, because he was one of the hottest in the opposition. He pays me handsome compliments, which I duly return him, and upon the whole, he is a man of parts, but a dangerous neighbor, against whom it is well to be on one’s guard. This is certainly a graphic sketch of the poetical and historical predecessor of the later Chief Magistrates of our State.”

i1763—THE FORGOTTEN BICENTENNIAL An Historiographic Commentary » by Robert R. Rea, Professor of History Auburn University

SOURCE

  1. 1763—THE FORGOTTEN BICENTENNIAL An Historiographic Commentary by Robert R. Rea, Professor of History Auburn University The Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol. 25, Nos. 03 & 04, Fall and Winter Issue 1963
  2. Transactions of the Alabama Historical Society, at the Annual Meeting …: July, 14, 1851; July 9th & 10th, 1855, J. W. & J. F. Warren)

i1763—THE FORGOTTEN BICENTENNIAL An Historiographic Commentary » by Robert R. Rea, Professor of History Auburn University

Major Robert Farmar of Mobile  by Robert R. Rea

The flamboyant military career of a colonist loyal to the British crown before the Revolution.
“An engaging biography [and] a colorful tale. . . . Robert Farmar, a son of New Jersey, used his position among that colony’s elite to secure a commission as a captain in the British Army during the War of Jenkins’ Ear and King George’s War, serving in the unsuccessful assaults at Cartegena, Cuba, and Panama and then in the disaster at Fontenoy in Flanders and in the reversals at Rocoux and Laffeldt. . . . During the Seven Years’ War he participated in the capture of Havana.

Major Robert Farmar of Mobile (Paperback)


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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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One comment

  1. Sean England

    He was a major with the last name of Major? I would have made fun of him.

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