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The central square of St. Augustine, Florida, the Plaza de la Constitución, is not named for the United States Constitution. Instead, its name comes from Florida’s first constitution, the Spanish Constitution of Cádiz of 1812. Daily political life in Florida’s Spanish colonial cities was governed by this document, and cities like St. Augustine ordered their activities around the requirements, rights, and duties expressed in this constitution. The Constitution of Cádiz was the first truly transatlantic constitution because it applied to the entire Spanish empire, of which St. Augustine and Pensacola were just a part. It was drafted by representatives from around the empire who gathered in the southern Spanish city of Cádiz while Spain battled against Napoleonic forces.

Even before Florida became a territory of the United States, it was subject to a constitution that divided government into the three branches so familiar to us all: legislative, executive, and judicial. The Constitution of Cádiz has many modern aspects that have become important throughout the world. The constitution recognized national sovereignty, required elections at all levels of government, made the legislature the central authority in government, and set out rights for the criminally accused. Other parts of the constitution reveal a much older world. The constitution has a large section on the king and the royal family, and maintains the Roman Catholic Church as the state religion.

This constitution governed Spanish Florida from 1812 to 1815 and then again from 1820 until 1821, when Spain turned Florida over to the United States. Mirow explains the importance of this document to the Spanish colonial world and to Florida. He describes some of the most interesting features of the constitution and its promulgation in St. Augustine. A fresh and authoritative translation of the entire constitution in provided along with the constitution’s original text in Spanish.



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Carolina Academic Press




Florida, State, Constitution, Constitution of Cadiz, Cadiz, Florida's first constitution, Florida constitution 1812, 1812


Comparative and Foreign Law | Constitutional Law | Legal History | State and Local Government Law


Excerpt available open-access here provided with permission by Carolina Academic Press. Full text can be purchased through the "Publisher's Website" link or checked out from your local library.

Florida's First Constitution