Integrating social, cultural, economic, and political history, this is a study of the factors that grounded--or swayed--the loyalties of non-Spaniards living under Spanish rule on the southern frontier. In particular, Andrew McMichael looks at the colonial Spanish administration's attitude toward resident Americans. The Spanish borderlands systems of slavery and land ownership, McMichael shows, used an efficient system of land distribution and government patronage that engendered loyalty and withstood a series of conflicts that tested, but did not shatter, residents' allegiance. McMichael focuses on the Baton Rouge district of Spanish West Florida from 1785 through 1810, analysing why resident Anglo-Americans, who had maintained a high degree of loyalty to the Spanish Crown through 1809, rebelled in 1810.
The book contextualises the 1810 rebellion, and by extension the southern frontier, within the broader Atlantic World, showing how both local factors as well as events in Europe affected lives in the Spanish borderlands. Breaking with traditional scholarship, McMichael examines contests over land and slaves as a determinant of loyalty. He draws on Spanish, French, and Anglo records to challenge scholarship that asserts a particularly ""American"" loyalty on the frontier whereby Anglo-American residents in West Florida, as disaffected subjects of the Spanish Crown, patiently abided until they could overthrow an alien system. Rather, it was political, social, and cultural conflicts--not nationalist ideology--that disrupted networks by which economic prosperity was gained and thus loyalty retained.