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England and France contested Spain’s


René Robert Cavelier
René Robert Cavelier

Early in the 17th century, Franciscan priests converted most of the Timucua and Apalachee of northern Florida to Christianity. An interior chain of missions eventually extended from Saint Augustine to present-day Tallahassee, and another chain ran north along the coastal islands of Georgia.

England and France contested Spain’s claim to the vast area that the Spaniards called La Florida. For 150 years following the establishment of the first permanent English settlement in America at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, English colonists pushed slowly southward into Spanish territory, establishing settlements in the Carolinas and in Georgia. The English saw the Spanish missions as a threat to their claims. Throughout the early part of the 18th century, English raiders, accompanied by their Native American allies of the Creek and Yamasee nations, attacked Spanish settlements in northern Florida. All of the Spanish missions were destroyed, and most of the Timucua and Apalachee were killed, captured as slaves, or driven into exile.

Meanwhile, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, and other French explorers of the interior of the continent reached the mouth of the Mississippi River in 1682. To counter their activities, the Spaniards in 1698 founded Pensacola in the panhandle. Over the next 20 years, the French founded settlements at Biloxi (now in Mississippi), Mobile (now in Alabama), and New Orleans (now in Louisiana). The French captured Pensacola in 1719, but returned it to Spanish rule in 1722. By 1750 France controlled the Gulf Coast area west of Pensacola, and Great Britain (a union of England, Scotland, and Wales) controlled the Atlantic Coast north of the Saint Marys River. Toward the end of the French and Indian War (1754-1763) between France and Great Britain, Spain allied itself with France against Great Britain. But the British won the war and by the terms of the Treaty of Paris received Florida from Spain.

The acquired land stretched as far west as the Mississippi River. The Spaniards retained New Orleans, near the mouth of the Mississippi.

British Colonial Period


West Florida
West Florida

Under British administration, the territory was divided into two colonies, East Florida and West Florida. East Florida, with its capital at Saint Augustine, occupied most of the present-day state. West Florida, with its capital at Pensacola, extended westward from the Apalachicola River to the Mississippi and included parts of present-day Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. During the 21 years of British rule, many colonists from England and other parts of Europe settled in Florida. Indigo plants, which yield a blue dye, were grown on plantations to supply the British textile industries, and furs, citrus fruit, lumber, and naval stores were also produced for export.

When the 13 colonies of Great Britain on the Atlantic Seaboard declared their independence as the United States, during the American Revolution (1775-1783), they invited East and West Florida to join them. The Florida colonists, however, remained loyal to Great Britain. During the revolution many Loyalists—colonists who remained loyal to the British king—fled to East Florida from Georgia and South Carolina. Raids and counterraids were common along the East Florida-Georgia border, but there were no major military actions between the patriots and British forces.

Second Spanish Period


In 1779 Spain joined the Revolutionary War on the side of the United States. Spanish forces from New Orleans attacked West Florida, capturing Mobile in 1780 and Pensacola in 1781. After the Revolution, in a second Treaty of Paris in 1783, the British formally returned both East Florida and West Florida to Spain. As a result, thousands of settlers left Florida for Britain’s island possessions in the West Indies.

The Spanish governor arrived in 1784. During this second period of Spanish colonial rule, until 1821, Florida received little attention from Spain. British traders were allowed to continue their profitable businesses in Florida, and immigrants from the United States began to settle there. These new settlers strongly supported annexation by the United States, and their views were encouraged by the U.S. government.

The United States and Spain disagreed about the location of the northern boundary of West Florida. The United States maintained, on the basis of language in the peace treaty of 1783, that it was latitude 31° north. Spain claimed the boundary to be latitude 32°30’ north, the boundary established during British rule, and refused to remove its army garrison from Natchez. Finally, in 1795, under the terms of the Treaty of San Lorenzo, Spain accepted latitude 31° north as the northern boundary of West Florida. "Florida" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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