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Second decade of the 19th century


John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams

In the second decade of the 19th century, Florida’s diverse population included Spaniards, United States settlers, English traders, adventurers, runaway slaves, and the Seminole. Spain maintained a few garrisons in the principal ports, but for the most part left the countryside alone and the Seminole to themselves. An offshoot of the Creek nation of the Georgia-Alabama frontier, the Seminole included remnants of other native peoples and a number of escaped black slaves from Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. They occupied lands in northern Florida that were coveted by residents of Georgia, although Florida belonged to Spain. Georgia residents were also unhappy over the Seminole practice of giving refuge to fugitive slaves.

In 1810 United States settlers in the western part of Florida rebelled against Spanish rule and declared their independence as the republic of West Florida. This area and other territory between the Mississippi and Perdido rivers was subsequently annexed by the United States.

The eastern part, between the Perdido and Pearl rivers, was incorporated into Mississippi territory, while the area west of the Pearl was included in the Territory of Orleans (now the state of Louisiana).

War of 1812


During the War of 1812 the Spaniards allowed the British to occupy Pensacola and set up a naval base there. In 1814 American forces led by General Andrew Jackson attacked Pensacola and drove the British out.

After the war the United States intervened in Florida on several occasions on behalf of American interests. The First Seminole War (1817-1818) began when U.S. troops, commanded by Jackson, invaded Florida to retaliate for border raids by the Seminole. Jackson seized a military post at Saint Marks and took as prisoners two British traders, Alexander Arbuthnot and Robert Chrystie Ambrister.

He had them court-martialed for inciting the Seminole and then, having been found guilty, executed. Learning that the Seminole had fled toward Pensacola, he made a forced march and captured the post a second time.

Jackson’s actions created an international incident. Both Spain and Britain were incensed. Most of President James Monroe’s Cabinet was ready to repudiate Jackson, but Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, who had been negotiating with Spain for the sale of Florida, insisted that Jackson had not exceeded his orders. He persuaded Monroe to accept his view, and then instructed Spain that it should either govern Florida more effectively or cede it to the United States.

After long negotiations, Spain agreed in 1819 to cede Florida to the United States. A probable factor in the decision was that Spain was troubled at that time by revolts in its South American colonies and could ill afford to go to war with the United States. Under the terms of the treaty, called the Adams-Onís Treaty, the United States agreed to assume payment of claims, up to $5 million, which American citizens in Florida had lodged against Spain. The United States took formal possession of Florida in 1821. "Florida" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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