On one of these victory tours, Jackson began to hear rumors about the Seminole Indians in Florida attacking settlements and using the Spanish territory there for protection. Fugitive slaves were also fleeing to the area and then launching raids on nearby plantations. By 1817, the problem became more severe as settlers continued to flood the area. Two British citizens, Alexander Arbuthnot and Robert Ambrister, exacerbated the situation by providing arms to the Seminoles and urging them to fight the Americans for their land.
When the Seminoles seized property outside Fowltown, they sealed their own fate. President James Monroe called on Jackson to lead forces into the area. Through ambiguously worded orders, Monroe may have given Jackson permission to attack the Indians within Spanish territory, but the President later denied he had done anything of the kind. Nonetheless, Jackson would not be deterred anyway. He considered the Spanish settlement in the Americas a scourge of the earth, his hatred of the Spanish second only to his hate of the British. Jackson therefore led 2,000 troops across the border into Florida, seizing the town of St. Marks. In short order, he captured both Arbuthnot and Ambrister, tried them, and sentenced them to death. Leaving two hundred troops behind to protect Fort Marks, Jackson left for Fort Gadsden. Along the way, he met little resistance from the Indians, who knew him by his vicious reputation and figured it wise not to fight him. While Jackson's actions up to this point could be defensible under international law, his next actions precipitated a major crisis. He seized the Spanish capital and the governor of Florida, announcing himself the new leader of the area until "the transaction can be amicably adjusted by the two governments." With the Spanish and Indians defeated, Jackson returned triumphantly home to Nashville.
President Monroe was left to clean up the mess: two executed British nationals, illegal seizure of Spanish land and citizens and the installation of American government on Spanish territory. Monroe's cabinet recommended that he deny any knowledge of the attack and censure or remove Jackson. The American public, however, offered the opposite opinion, and the new military campaign had only further advanced Jackson's already glowing public stature.
Jackson was, therefore, shocked when Monroe restored the Florida territory to the Spanish. The Cherokees…