America’s Sin of Genocide



When the Spanish conquistadors set sail in 1565 for what is now known as America, they were aware that upon their arrival there were two “nationalities” they would have to overpower in order to establish and secure Spain’s foothold in Florida:  the Native American Indians and the French Huguenots.  Yet, Spain’s approach to overpowering one nationality differed greatly with their approach to overpowering the other.   The intent of the Spanish monarchy was only to subdue the Native American Indians, never to exterminate them.  On the other hand, it was their intent to completely eliminate the French Huguenots who had established a French colony on American soil that the Spanish claimed as their own. 


The conquistadors needed the Native American Indian for various reasons.  They had heard many rumors about vast amounts of gold and other precious metals hidden in the Americas.  They believed the natives, who were familiar with the lay of the land, would lead them to these locations.  Moreover, the conquistadors needed additional slave labor to add to the African slaves they brought with them. 


They also needed to fulfill their “religious obligations” to convert the Native American Indians to Christianity – at least according to their secular definition of Christianity, which was unbiblical.  It was while in bondage to the Spanish that the Native American Indians were forced to build the Spanish missions where the Priests would teach them about Roman Catholicism, which misrepresented Christ Jesus.  Thus, the two came together.  Sadly, the slaves were required to build the missions where they would be taught about the love of Jesus Christ – a love neither the conquistadors nor the priests understood or extended to the Native American Indians!


On the other hand, the intent of the Spanish monarchy was the “genocide” (extermination) of the French Huguenots.  The French Huguenots were Protestants who dared to establish a French colony on soil the Spanish crown claimed as their own.  The orders given to the Spanish conquistadors were to completely wipe out all French Huguenots – they were not to leave a trace of them or their Protestant Bibles on Florida soil.  


The Sin of America’s Spanish Forefathers


We know from Genesis 15:13-16 that the sins of a nation become “full” in the fourth generation or approximately four hundred years, and it is at that time that the LORD will judge that nation if those sins have not been confessed on a national level.  While the sins of our English forefathers were acknowledged in 2007 on an international, national and state level, the sins of the Spanish, who were the first to bring slavery to America and to inflict injustices on the Native American Indians at least fifty five years before the  settlement at Jamestown, have never been publicly acknowledged.  As a result, illegal immigration and all the problems associated with it are only some of the consequences of these unconfessed sins.


In 2007, in celebration of the 400th anniversary of Jamestown, the sins of our English forefathers were confessed for the first time at all levels of government.  At the international level – Queen Elizabeth; at the national level – President Bush; and at the state level – the lawmakers of Virginia and other states all publicly acknowledged the injustices that the Native American Indians and African Americans endured at the hands of America’s English forefathers.  (See article on Jamestown for details).  


In addition to the same sins committed by our English forefathers, America’s Spanish forefathers committed the sin of genocide.   Genocide is the deliberate and systematic intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a religious, political or ethnic group. 


The first international war fought in North America was the battle fought between Spain and the French Huguenots in 1565.  When Spain brought their religious wars to America in 1565, the King of Spain instructed the conquistadors to kill all the French Huguenots – simply because they were “Protestants”.  The leader of the Spanish conquistadors in Florida, Pedro Menendez, after murdering the French Huguenots at Fort Caroline, hung some of their bodies on trees and over their heads, placed placards that read: “Not unto Frenchmen but unto Lutherans”


This was a clear acknowledgement that they were not killed because they were French, but because they were Lutherans (Protestants).  At that time, the Roman Catholic Church and those loyal to the pope considered all Protestant denominations as heretics – enemies of the Church.  As a consequence, these heretics became objects of their wrath; if they did not recant, the mistaken attitude was that they deserved to be put to death.    


The following accounts support the premise that Spain’s objective to supplant the French Huguenots from Florida was not to just subdue the Huguenots, but was an act of genocide.  Spain’s attack was deliberate and systematic with the intent to completely destroy a specific religious group – Protestants. 


·         “If the settlement at Port Royal had been a disquieting intrusion, Fort Caroline, under the very nose of Havana and on the path of the treasure fleets, was an imminent menace to New Spain.  Its import was plainly stated in the reports to Philip from Mexico.  … In urging action before Coligny could send Ribaut to relieve the colonists, the same report continued:  seeing that they are Lutherans … it is not needful to leave a man alive, but to inflict an exemplary punishment, that they may remember it forever.’” [1] (emphasis added)


Note:  Coligny and Ribaut were leaders of the French Huguenots and Philip is King Philip of Spain. 


·         “To expel and castigate the French and to plant his own power solidly in Florida, Philip had at last picked a man who would not fail.  … Menendez’s contract was a typical conquistador’s agreement. … Above all he was to see that none of his colonists were Jews or secret heretics.  And he was to drive out the French settlers ‘by what means you see fit.’ … Menendez sailed from Cadiz on July 29, 1565. … On the 28th of August he dropped anchor in a harbor about the mouth of a river and gave to it the name of the saint on whose festival he had discovered it – Saint Augustine (San Agustin).  Seven days later he went up the coast, looking for the French.  In the afternoon he came upon four of Ribaut’s ships lying outside the bar at St. John’s River.  Menendez, ignoring the French fire, which was aimed too high to do any damage, led his vessels in among the foe’s.  ‘Gentlemen, from where does this fleet come?’ he demanded, as we are told, ‘very courteously.’  ‘From France,’ came the answer from Ribaut’s flagship.  … ‘Are you Catholics or Lutherans?’  ‘Lutherans, and our general is Jean Ribaut.’  In answer to like questions from the French ship, Menendez made reply:  I am the General; my name is Pedro Menendez de Aviles.  The is the armada of the King of Spain, who has sent me to this coast and country to burn and hang the Lutheran French who should be found there, and in the morning I will board your ships; and if I find any Catholics they will be well treated.’” [2]

(emphasis added)


·         “Menendez, it is affirmed, hanged his prisoners on trees, and placed over them the inscription, ‘I do this, not as to Frenchmen, but as to Lutherans,’” [3] (emphasis added)



o   This was the first of three attacks on the French Huguenots.  This attack took place at Fort Caroline.

o   The few women and children that Menendez spared was because he feared God would punish him otherwise.  Nonetheless, in keeping with his original objective, King Philip ordered that they too be killed either directly or indirectly. 

o   Jean Ribault, leader of the Huguenots, and other French Huguenots were away from the Fort at this time.  Menendez, intent on ridding Florida of all Huguenots, subsequently “systematically” and “deliberately” tracked them down – killing all who escaped or sparing only those women and children referenced above.  


·         “After a brief rest at the post, which he rechristened Fort San Mateo, Menendez marched swiftly back to St. Augustine.  He learned presently that one hundred and forty men from two French ships wrecked by the storm were nearby. … Menendez made a quick march to the spot.  When the castaways pleaded that their lives be spared until the arrival of a French ship to take them home, Menendez answered that he was ‘waging a war of fire and blood against all who came to settle these parts and plant in them their evil Lutheran sect. …  For this reason I would not grant them a safe passage, but  would sooner follow them by sea and land until I had taken their lives’[4]  (emphasis added)


Note: This was the second of three attacks.


·         “Shortly after Menendez had reached St. Augustine, Indians informed him that Jean Ribaut and two hundred men were at Matanzas, having been cut off there, as the other Frenchmen had been … Menendez set out immediately.  Once more were the same ceremonies repeated; and Ribaut and his two hundred men were induced to surrender.  When with their hands bound, … they were asked:  Are you Catholics or Lutherans and are there any who wish to confess?’  Seventeen Catholics were found and set aside. … ‘I put Jean Ribaut and all the rest of them to the knife,’ Menendez wrote to Philip, ‘judging it to be necessary to the service of the Lord Our God, and of Your Majesty.’” [5]  (emphasis added)



o   Jean Ribaut was murdered in this third and final attack.

o   The Catholics in the group were allowed to live.  Again, the Spanish wanted to rid Florida of French Huguenots, not Catholics.  This is consistent with genocide.  


·         “The fate of the captives may be gathered from the endorsement, in the handwriting of the king, on one of the despatches [sic] of Menendez.  ‘Say to him,’ writes Philip the Second, ‘that, as to those he has killed, he has done well; and to those he has saved, they shall be sent to the galleys.’” [6] (emphasis added)


Note: The “captives” are from the group that had refused to surrender when Ribaut and the other French Huguenots were murdered, but who have now surrendered approximately three weeks later.  Menendez felt they posed no threat because they were few in number, only to be ordered to be put to death by King Philip (the survivors being sent to the galleys meant sure death for them).  Again, this is consistent with the definition of genocide.




For years some lawmakers on Capitol Hill have insisted that the country of Turkey publicly acknowledge that their forefathers committed an act of genocide against the Armenians during and after World War I.  While Turkey acknowledges that many Armenians were killed – they deny that the intent was genocide.  Furthermore, Turkey has made it clear that if these accusations continue, the relations between the United States and Turkey could be negatively affected. 


Instead of pointing the finger at Turkey, America should step up and publicly acknowledge the genocide that occurred here in America.  In light of the available documentation, it is unmistakable that the objective of King Phillip of Spain was genocide, the extermination of all French Huguenots in Florida.  The sins of King Phillip of Spain who ordered the genocide of the French Huguenots, the sins of the Spanish conquistadors who carried out the genocide and the sins of the Roman Catholic Church who murdered by consent when they approved of the massacre of the French Huguenots, should all be brought to light.  America should publicly acknowledge these transgressions against the French Huguenots.     



© Gwen Thomas, February, 2008





Bolton, Herbert E. The Spanish Borderlands: A Chronicle of Old Florida and the Southwest. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1921


Parkman Jr., Francis. Pioneers of France in the New World. Boston:, written bt. 1864-1892, Publisher’s Advertisement 1907





[1] Herbert E. Bolton, The Spanish Borderlands, p. 138-139 


[2] Ibid, p. 140-143


[3] Francis Parkman Jr., Pioneers of France in the New World, p. 61


[4] Herbert E. Bolton, The Spanish Borderlands, p. 146


[5] Ibid, p. 148-149


[6] Francis Parkman Jr., Pioneers of France in the New World, p. 72