The Amelia Framers, 1817: Farce as a Historiographical Model


  • Charlie Nasatir Zaharoff Freie Universität Berlin



In 1817, a group of privateers attempted to establish an independent nation-state on an island just below the southern U.S. border. At that time, the Monroe administration was in negotiations for East Florida, the region to which the island belonged. The administration decided to invade the island and provisionally restore Spanish sovereignty so that it could legally purchase East Florida without further complications. This study argues for the utility of narrativizing this event as a farce. Previous historical accounts have deemphasized its farcical elements, and as a result have failed to articulate the discrepancy between performances and intentions on each side of the conflict. To recognize this discrepancy allows us to recognize how the privateers consciously manipulated the notion of nation-statehood to serve their particular ends. To the extent this manipulation was successful, the Monroe administration was forced to actively evade the legal uncertainties surrounding their decision to invade.

Author Biography

Charlie Nasatir Zaharoff, Freie Universität Berlin

Charlie N. Zaharoff, of Oakland, California, is pursuing an M.A. in American Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin. In 2015, he accepted a grant to do research on the political debates around jazz music in the early GDR. This project led among other things to a pivot away from journalism, which he had studied at Northwestern University, towards history and social theory. His current research interests include forgery, nation-building, Riceour’s work on the philosophy of history, and mass school shootings.

Election Results in the Republic of the Floridas. 1817. Wikimedia Commons.