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Happy Birthday Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid–An Honorary U.S. Citizen

 

Portrait of Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid by Carlos Monserrate Carreño, on display in the U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C. Image used with permission of the Curator of the United States Senate.

Bernardo Vicente Apolinar de Gálvez y Madrid is one of those unsung heroes of American history.  Today, I would like to share a few highlights about this giant of Americana.

Born on July 23, 1746, in Macharaviaya—a town and municipio in Málaga within the autonomous community of Andalusia, which is situated in the south of Spain—Bernardo de Gálvez was quite an accomplished man.  In 1776, at age 29, he was appointed governor of then Spanish Louisiana.  According to a National Park Service article on Gálvez, “[h]is mission as a top military and civilian authority of this land which stretched from the Mississippi River to the Rockies, from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada, was to deal fairly with the French Creole population, promote commerce, fight smuggling, cultivate friendship with the Indians, build up population, and in case of war against Great Britain, he was expected to attack and take British West Florida, all with only 500 soldiers.” [Emphasis mine]

Don Bernard de Gálvez colonel des armées de Sa Majesté, intandant & gouverneur général par interime de la province de la Louisianne [. . .], March 3,1777, //www.loc.gov/item/2005700123/

In 2014, in honor of all the good Gálvez did for our country, the “Embassy of Spain to the United States as part of its Hispanic Policy” programmed “a set of actions to highlight the historic ties between the two countries through the knowledge of the figure of Bernardo de Gálvez.”  One such action was to have his portrait hang on the walls of the Capitol. According to a Spanish article, “The Odyssey of the Portrait of Bernardo de Gálvez:  from Málaga to the [U.S.] Capitol,” 231 years ago (now 235) in a document issued in 1783, the U.S. promised don Bernardo de Gálvez that a protrait of his would be displayed in the Capitol.  And that finally happened, in 2014.

In addition, Congress passed legislation awarding him honorary citizenship.  On December 16, 2014, Public Law 113-229 “Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid, Viscount of Galveston and Count of Gálvez, is proclaimed posthumously to be an honorary citizen of the United States.”  The law contains some of the feats of this historical figure.  Some of the highlights, according to the law, are that he was a “hero of the Revolutionary War” who

  • Risked his life for the freedom of the people of the United States;
  • Seized the Port of New Orleans and defeated the British in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Natchez, Mississippi; and Mobile, Alabama;
  • Led the two-month Siege of Pensacola, Florida, capturing the capital of British West Florida and leaving them without naval bases in the Gulf of Mexico;
  • Recognized by George Washington for his victories against the British, as a deciding factor in the outcome of the Revolutionary War;
  • Recognized by the United States Continental Congress, on October 31, 1778, for his “spirited and disinterested conduct” towards the United States and was assured that Congress would take “every opportunity of evincing the favorable and friendly sentiments they entertain[ed] of Governor Galvez, and all the faithful subjects of his Catholic Majesty [Charles III, King of Spain] inhabiting the country under his government.”

It is worth mentioning that Bernardo de Gálvez’s honorary citizenship is only the eighth ever granted by the United States.  Other figures who have been granted this exceptional honor include Winston Churchill, Raoul Wallenberg, William Penn and Hannah Callowhill Penn, Mother Teresa, Marquis de Lafayette Gilbert du Motier, and Casimir Pulaski.

Explore more about don Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid in these Library of Congress collection items:

External Sources

For Young Readers

I would like to thank Giulia Adelfio, visitor services officer, who liaised some of the initial contacts with the Capitol, as well as Nik Apostolides, deputy CEO, U.S. Capitol Visitor Center; Melinda Smith, curator of the United States Senate; and Amy Burton, Senate curatorial assistant.

8 Comments

  1. Joanne Landron
    July 23, 2018 at 5:58 pm

    How about Galveston Island in Texas wasn’t it named after him? I am just wondering.

  2. Francisco Macías
    July 24, 2018 at 9:42 am

    Absolutely. This gentleman contributed greatly to the southern region of the United States, and certainly to Mexico and other spaces that were once part of the New Spain. Thanks for chiming in, Joanne!

  3. Josh Wilberger
    July 25, 2018 at 7:33 am

    This is a great post. I admit I had never heard of him prior to joining patriotic groups such as the Society of the Cincinnati, Sons of the Revolution, and Sons of the American Revolution.

    The follow-on material to read is great. It’s been a while since I’ve read the blog – now I remember why I miss it!

  4. Francisco Macías
    July 25, 2018 at 9:29 am

    Thank you for this great feedback, Josh!

  5. Sergio salvadores
    July 29, 2018 at 10:05 am

    Hello, and thanks for the incredible post about bernardo de Gálvez. I’m from spain. In 2017 Guillermo fesser, a spanish journalist, who actually is living in whasington write a book about Bernardo de Gálvez, for kids. I recomend you , the name is Get to know Bernardo de Galvez. Thank you for the post and for the meaning

  6. Francisco Macías
    July 31, 2018 at 9:30 am

    Thank you very much, Sergio. We do have other publications by Mr. Fesser. I’ll reach out to colleagues about adding this book to the collection.

  7. José L. González
    October 19, 2018 at 4:28 am

    As a proud member of the founding chapter of The Order of Granaderos y Damas de Gálvez in San Antonio, Texas, I am delighted to see your post and wanted to thank you for taking the initiative to promote an up-to-now little known fact in American history. With an “endorsement” from such a prestigious institution as the United States Library of Congress perhaps now Governor Don Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid will no longer be hidden figure, and more importantly another Hispanic contribution to American history can and will be recognized by all. ¡ADELANTE!

  8. Michael Cristian
    July 23, 2019 at 3:09 pm

    Bernardo de Galvez is America’s Spanish Savior! He is certainly a positive historical figure of history! Happy birthday Governor!

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