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On September 30, 1822, Joseph Marion Hernández becomes the first Hispanic to be elected to the United States Congress. Born a Spanish citizen, Hernández would die in Cuba, but in between he became the first non-white person to serve at the highest levels of any of three branches of the American federal government.
Hernández belonged to a St. Augustine family that came to Florida as indentured servants. Despite these humble beginnings, records show that his family eventually became wealthy enough to own property and several slaves, and that Hernández was educated both in both Georgia and in Cuba. Throughout the 1810s, the United States made a variety of efforts to take Florida from the Spanish, finally succeeding after Andrew Jackson led an army through the territory in the First Seminole War. What Hernández did during this time is unclear, but he was either very savvy or very lucky—he fought the Americans during the war and received substantial amounts of land from the Spanish government, but then pledged loyalty to the United States and was allowed to keep his three plantations when the territory changed hands in 1819. It was then that Hernández changed his name from José Mariano to Joseph Marion.
The newly-acquired Florida Territory was allowed to elect a delegate to congress, but that delegate did not have voting privileges. Florida's legislative council elected Hernández to represent the territory. During his brief tenure—he served for less than a year before losing his re-election bid—Hernández was instrumental in facilitating the transition from Spanish to American government in Florida. In addition to securing the property rights of many Floridians who remained after the annexation, he also advocated for roads and infrastructure to bind the new territory together and make it an attractive candidate for statehood.
He went on to fight in the Second Seminole War, helping his adopted nation drive the natives from its new territory. The war saw the loss of two of his plantations, however, as well the destruction of his political ambitions after he was involved in an incident in which an American contingent captured a number of Seminoles despite approaching them under a flag of truce. Hernández later served as Mayor of St. Augustine before retiring to Cuba, where he died in 1857.
READ MORE: Hispanic History Milestones: Timeline
Joseph Marion Hernández
José Mariano Hernández or Joseph Marion Hernández (May 26, 1788 Ώ] – June 8, 1857) was an American politician, plantation owner, and soldier. He was the first Florida Territory's at-large congressional district|Delegate from the Florida Territory and the first Hispanic American to serve in the United States Congress. ΐ] He served from September 1822 to March 1823. He was a member of the Whig Party.
Early Hispanic Americans in Congress
National Hispanic Heritage Month concludes today. To commemorate, read on to learn about some of the early Hispanic Americans to serve in Congress.
Joseph Marion Hernández (Library of Congress)
Think Hispanic Americans are relatively recent arrivals to national politics? Think again. Joseph Marion Hernández, the first Hispanic to serve in Congress, was also the first delegate from the territory of Florida. When Spain transferred Florida to the U.S., Hernández transferred his citizenship and was elected to the House as a Whig in 1822. He served until the end of the Seventeenth Congress in March 1823. Later, having failed to win re-election to the U.S. House, he served in the Territorial House and in the army during the war against the Florida Indians, during which he commanded the expedition that captured Oceola. Hernández lost his bid to represent Florida in the U.S. Senate before moving to Cuba to oversee family property there.
José Manuel Gallegos (Museum of New Mexico #9982)
Twenty years after Hernández’s stint in Congress, José Manuel Gallegos arrived in Washington to serve as New Mexico’s delegate in the U.S. House. His opponents contested his election both in 1852 and to the following Congress in 1854 Gallegos served his first term but was denied his seat after Miguel Otero’s contestation. Gallegos’ political career continued in the territory (he had begun adulthood as a priest) and included a return to the U.S. House as New Mexico’s delegate in 1871. In the midst of this career, during the Civil War, the Confederates took him prisoner—Gallegos had been a strong Union supporter since the start of the war.
Numerous other Hispanics served in Congress throughout the 19 th and 20 th centuries. As their numbers increased, five members founded the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which initially focused on urban housing and education, including support for bilingual programs. In 1989 Ileana Ros-Lehtinen became the first Hispanic representative from Florida since Joseph Marion Hernández she is also the first Cuban American and first Hispanic woman to serve in Congress.
Joseph Marion Hernández
José Mariano Hernández or Joseph Marion Hernández (May 26, 1788  – June 8, 1857) was an American politician, plantation owner, and soldier. He was the first Delegate from the Florida Territory and the first Hispanic American to serve in the United States Congress.  A member of the Whig Party, he served from September 1822 to March 1823.
José Mariano Hernández was born in St. Augustine, Florida during Florida's second Spanish period. His parents were Minorcans who had originally come to the region as indentured servants in Andrew Turnbull's New Smyrna colony. Prior to the American acquisition of Florida, Hernández owned three plantations south of St. Augustine (in what was then East Florida):  San Jose, Mala Compra, and Bella Vista, the last of which is now Washington Oaks State Gardens.
He married the widowed Ana María Hill Williams on February 25, 1814 in St. Augustine. Ana María Hill was born on June 6, 1787 in St. Augustine, and was the daughter of the South Carolinian merchant Theophilus Hill, and his wife Theresa Thomas. The Hills had immigrated from South Carolina by the 1780s, Hernández and his wife had at least one child, Dora Hernández.  and several daughters of the family married into the Sánchez de Ortigosa family.
When Spain ceded the Floridas to the United States in the Adams–Onís Treaty in 1819, Hernández pledged his allegiance to the U.S. After the organization of the Florida Territory, he was elected Florida's first Delegate to the United States House of Representatives, and was approved by President James Monroe on September 30, 1822. He thus became the first Hispanic ever to serve in the U.S. Congress.  He served for six months, leaving office on March 3, 1823. 
Hernández later served in the Territorial House of Representatives, the predecessor to the Florida House of Representatives, in which he was the presiding officer.  He continued running his plantations, which were burned by the Seminoles in the Second Seminole War. The ruins of one of these plantations, Mala Compra, is today a preserved archaeological site. He was appointed Brigadier General over a troop of volunteers during the war and was subsequently commissioned in the United States Army, serving from 1835 to 1838. Hernández was the commanding officer responsible for the imprisonment of the Seminole leader Osceola upon the orders of General Thomas Jesup, as well as the capture of Seminole chiefs Ee-mat-la (King Philip) and Seminole ally Uchee Billy. He retired with the rank of Brigadier General. 
Hernández was an unsuccessful Whig candidate for the United States Senate in 1845.  He later moved to Cuba and engaged as a planter in the District of Coliseo, near Matanzas, and died at the family's sugar estate, "Audaz", in the District of Coliseo, in Matanzas Province. He is interred in the Del Junco family vault in Necropolis San Carlos Borromeo, Matanzas.
National Hispanic Heritage Month – Joseph Marion Hernández, Early Transportation Advocate
During the fall of 1822, a three-day election was held in the newly formed Territory of Florida to decide who would serve as the region’s first delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. Joseph Marion Hernández was selected for the position, and as a result, he became the first Hispanic-American member of Congress.
Hernández, who was born in St. Augustine in 1788, ended up serving in the House of Representatives for only a few months. Notwithstanding both his brief tenure on Capitol Hill and the institutional limitations imposed on him as a territorial delegate, Hernández proved to be an impassioned and anything-but-shy advocate for capital improvement projects for roads, bridges, and canals in Florida. He championed the need for building a 380-mile (611.6-kilometer) road between St. Augustine and Pensacola, for example, and also lobbied for establishing roads south of the former of those two major settlements.
Friday, September 29, 2006
JOSEPH MARION HERNANDEZ - Hispanic Heritage Month
JOSEPH MARION HERNANDEZ
Whig of the Territory of Florida
September 30, 1822 - March 3, 1823
Joseph Marion [José Maria] Hernandez was the first Hispanic to serve in Congress and the first Delegate from the territory of Florida. He was born in St. Augustine, Florida on August 4, 1793, when it was still a Spanish colony. When the territory of Florida was established in 1822, Hernandez transferred his allegiance to the United States and was elected Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served until March 3, 1823.
Hernandez later became a member and the presiding officer of the Territorial House of Representatives. He was appointed brigadier general of volunteers in the war against the Florida Indians. From 1835 to 1838 he served in the U.S. Army. In 1837 he commanded the expedition that captured the Indian Chief Oceola, and was appointed brigadier general of the Mounted Volunteers.
In 1845 Hernandez ran for the United States Senate as a Whig candidate, but was defeated. He then moved to Cuba where he managed his family's sugar estate in the district of Coliseo, near Matanzas. He died on June 8, 1857.
On This Day: Congress Gets Its First Hispanic Member
Joseph Marion Hernández became the first Hispanic American to serve in Congress on this day in 1822.
Mr. Hernández was born in Florida while it was still a Spanish colony, and when it became an American territory, he became a United States citizen. Raised by a family of wealthy plantation owners, Mr. Hernández was elected as a delegate to the 17th Congress.
While his election was historic, his service was brief. He served for less than a year in the House and made no floor speeches, preferring to submit written memorials and motions on behalf of Floridians. According to House archives, his 𠇌omplex life and career as a slave-owning, Indian-fighting politician cut from Jacksonian cloth embodied conflicting attitudes toward statehood, representation and territorial conquest.”
Mr. Hernández went on to spend three years in the Army, fighting against Native Americans, and was ultimately appointed brigadier general of the Mounted Volunteers.
Not finished with politics, Mr. Hernández tried to win a seat in the Senate in 1845 as a Whig. After failing to do so, he retired to Cuba to manage his family’s sugar estate in Coliseo. He died in 1857.
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Board of Education case, signed a law outlawing segregation only where it was not legal – he did not end legal segregation for non-white minorities in California. Several organizations joined the appellate case as amicus curiae, including the NAACP, represented by Thurgood Marshall and Robert L.
On May 17, 1954, the United State Supreme Court decided a case that changed the course of American history. On this day in 1954, in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation of schools was unconstitutional.
First Hispanic American to serve in Congress, Sept. 30, 1822
On this day in 1822, Joseph Marion Hernandez (1793-1857), a delegate from the newly established Florida Territory, became the first Hispanic American to serve in Congress. Born in St. Augustine, Fla., while it was still a Spanish colony, Hernandez was elected as a delegate to the 17th Congress as a newly minted U.S. citizen and served less than a year in the House. Although he made no speeches, he submitted numerous motions on behalf of Floridians.
After leaving the House, Hernandez pursued a long career in the Florida Territorial Legislature. From 1835 to 1838, he served as a brigadier general in the Florida volunteers, joining a military expedition in 1837 that captured the Seminole chief Osceola (1803-1838). Before settling in Cuba, Hernandez tried unsuccessfully in 1845 to secure a seat in the U.S. Senate as a Whig. (Florida became the nation’s 27th state on March 3, 1845.)
Several other Hispanic delegates served in the House before Romualdo Pacheco of California became the first Hispanic American to serve as a full-fledged representative, after being elected in 1876 to the 45th Congress.
Today, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus comprises 21 members of Hispanic descent. It was founded in 1976 as a legislative service organization of the House. Its current chairman is Democratic Rep. Joe Baca, who entered Congress in 1999 after winning a special election. He represents California’s 43rd District.
The Hispanic Caucus advocates reforming the nation’s immigration laws to include a path to permanency for the millions of mainly Hispanic undocumented people living in the United States. It also favors “a reduction in the long queues of the family immigration system, to promote family unity, and a temporary worker program that creates new channels for future workers to enter safely and legally.”
Source: Office of History and Preservation, Clerk of the U.S. House
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First Hispanic American serves in Congress, Sept. 30, 1822
On this day in 1822, Joseph Marion Hernandez became the first Hispanic-American to serve in Congress as a delegate from the Florida Territory.
He was born on Aug. 4, 1793, in St. Augustine, then a Spanish colony, becoming a U.S. citizen when Florida became an American territory on March 30, 1822. The Americans cobbled their newly acquired territory together by merging East and West Florida, establishing a new capital in Tallahassee, located halfway between the former East Floridian capital of St. Augustine and the former West Floridian capital of Pensacola. (Most of West Florida was annexed to the Territory of Orleans and Mississippi Territory.)
After being elected as a delegate to the 17th Congress, Hernandez served for less than a year. Although he never spoke on the floor, he submitted many memorials and motions on behalf of Florida residents.
Hernandez joined the U.S. Army in 1835 and fought in the Second Seminole War, aiding in the capture of Osceola, the Seminole Indian chief. He retired in 1838 with the rank of brigadier general of mounted volunteers.
Hernandez later became a member and presiding officer of the Florida Territorial House of Representatives. After making an unsuccessful effort to secure a seat as a Whig in the U.S. Senate in 1845, he moved to Cuba and became a sugar planter in Coliseo, near Matanzas. He died at the family’s estate on June 8, 1857.
Several other Hispanic delegates were in the House before Romualdo Pacheco of California became the first Hispanic-American to serve as a full-fledged representative, having won a seat in the 45th Congress in 1876. Currently, there are 27 Hispanics in the House, including 10 from California, six from Texas and three from Florida. After several recent resignations, there is only one Hispanic in the Senate — Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).
Source: Historian, Clerk of the U.S. House
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