Letter: Florida Militias and the Second Amendment

After reading the St. Augustine Record front page article entitled “Firearms Sales Increase” I felt compelled to set the record straight.

First, I find it some what comical, and amusing that most ignorant African-Americans and Caucasians believe that militias and second amendment supporters are right wing organizations and people that are racist and unpatriotic. In my experience that is far from the truth.

Second, the members of the Florida Free Militias believe, as I do, that as Americans we have a right and a responsibility to defend country and our freedoms. “Militia members are patriots who are proud of the principles that our country was founded upon and are “restorationists” who want to return to a government of, by, and for the people. Militia members are not revolutionaries, racists, or criminals.

Third, the first militia was formed in St. Augustine in 1565, by the Spanish Government, when they organized their first company of citizen-soldiers. The second militia in St. Augustine was formed to defend the town from the British from South Carolina. Those that were there to raises their arms were Africans who escaped to Spanish Florida.

Fourth, in 1638, another black militia was formed to defend the City of St. Augustine. In 1693, the second edit, issued by King Charles II, granted sanctuary and freedom to escaped slaves provided that they join the militia. In 1726, another black militia was formed; then again in 1738 when Spanish Governor Montiano issued a proclamation allowing blacks to gain freedom by forming a militia and conforming to Christianity. Droves of slaves came to Florida from South Carolina and Georgia. This invariably led to the War on Jenkins Ear and other battles.

The question for the British and federal government at the time became what do we do with the black and Native Americans who were helping the Spanish? How do we stop them and acquire Florida?

Fortunately, the British did not acquire Florida through battle. The regiments here were armed and prevented it from happening. Yes, the British did acquire Florida, but not through battle; through the Treaty of Paris, i.e. legislation.

Fifth, today the term “militia” is commonly used to refer to a “military force composed or ordinary citizens to provide defense, emergency law enforcement, or paramilitary service, in times of emergency without being paid a regular salary or committed to a fixed term of service.” An example of that citizen force in Florida is the Florida National Guard.

Sixth, the Florida National Guard, which is headquartered in St. Augustine, can “trace its heritage back to 1565, the year the Spanish founders of St. Augustine organized their first company of citizen-soldiers. Florida’s militia has defended local communities for over 440 years.”

In essence, as my dad and other relatives who were natives of St. Augustine would say “don’t come down starting no mess!” And, like them, I am sticking with the Spanish and old time Minorcan families who believed the same. Hence, “at times you must dance with the ones’ who brought you.”

It was, and is, those same Spanish and Minorcans families (cousins) that assisted us in the past — and even today. So, in that same vein, as past relatives from another generation, it is my turn to dance. I will do it proudly and openly, with no hesitation or reservation, because it is the right thing to do.

Photo provided by Derek Boyd Hankerson

Derek Boyd Hankerson
St. Augustine, FL

Derek Boyd Hankerson is the Managing Partner of Freedom Road, LLC. Derek is former vice president of the St. Johns County Republican Executive Committee and was an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention. Derek has been a leader in numerous community projects in support of Fort Mose, multicultural education and heritage tourism. Historic City News is pleased to be able to publish Derek’s periodic guest columns which are both informative and entertaining. Derek and his wife live in St. Augustine.


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