|Florida Becomes a
Rule in Florida
in East and West Florida
and the American Revolution
Second Spanish Period
States Acquires Florida
Territory of Florida
Second Seminole War
British Rule in Florida
In 1763, Spain ceded Florida to Great Britain.
To cede is to give up as part of a treaty. After 250 years of
Spanish rule, Florida came under British rule. When Great
Britain acquired Florida, its government decided to split
Florida into two colonies: East Florida with its capital in
St. Augustine and West Florida with its capital in Pensacola.
The Apalachicola River served as the boundary between the two
colonies. West Florida extended west to the Mississippi River
and included parts of present-day Alabama, Mississippi, and
Louisiana. Counting the two Florida colonies, now there were
15 British colonies in what later became the United
To attract settlers Great Britain gave
settlers grants of free land. By 1774, over one million acres
had been given in East Florida alone. Dr. Andrew Turnbull was
one of the recipients of a land grant. He received a grant of
more than 100,000 acres in present-day Volusia County. In
1768, Turnbull started an indigo plantation that he called New
Smyrna. He recruited mostly people from Minorca, an island off
the coast of Spain. He also recruited Greeks and Italians to
work. The workers were hired as indentured servants. An
indentured servant is an individual who contracts to work for
a colonist for a certain number of years in exchange for
transportation to the colonies and land.
the plantation overseers treated the workers cruelly. In 1777,
the workers rebelled and fled on foot 80 miles north to St.
Augustine. They told the British governor about the abuses
that they had endured, and he freed them, allowing them to
stay in St. Augustine. Today, many residents of St. Augustine
are descendants of the workers at Turnbull's plantation.
Life in East and West
Both East and West
Florida exported rice, indigo, and furs. A great many
languages were spoken in the fourteenth and fifteenth
colonies: English; Mandingo (West Africa); the Native American
languages of Muskogee, Hitchiti, and Cherokee; Spanish;
Minorcan; Italian; Sicilian; French; German, and Greek. As it
is today, colonial Florida was a multicultural and
Florida and the American
declared their independence from Great Britain in 1776, East
and West Florida remained loyal to Britain and to King George
III. Many British Loyalists from Georgia and the Carolinas
fled for safety to the Floridas. The migration spurred St.
Augustine's growth from 6,000 to 17,000 by the end of
First France, then Spain, joined the American
colonists in their war for independence from Britain. Troops
led by the Spanish governor of the Louisiana Territory,
Bernardo de Gálvez, attacked British forts on the Gulf of
Mexico, capturing Mobile and Pensacola.
commanded an army of almost 8,000 soldiers during the Siege of
Pensacola. His forces were made up of Spaniards and Cubans,
both black and white; Dominicans; Mexicans; and others from
When the Peace of Paris was signed in
1783, the American colonies had won their independence. The
British also gave Florida back to Spain.
Back to TopThe Second Spanish
The Spanish government
in Florida took steps to improve education and to encourage
immigration. Governor Vicente Manuel de Zéspedes arrived with
500 soldiers in St. Augustine in June 1784. With the governor
came two Irish priests who three years later would establish
the St. Augustine School, the first integrated public school
in the United States. The school was supported by funds from
the royal treasury. It was opened without charge to all
children, including African Americans.
States Acquires Florida
Governor Zéspedes offered land grants, many Americans took
advantage of the opportunity to move to Florida. As Anglo
Americans made up more and more of the population, support for
the annexation of Florida by the United States grew.
Annexation is one country taking control of an area of another
The United States was pleased to have American
citizens moving to Spanish Florida. As U.S. Secretary of State
Thomas Jefferson stated in a letter to President George
Washington in 1791,
"I wish 10,000 of our
inhabitants would accept the invitation (to move to Spanish
Florida). It would be the means of delivering to us peacefully
what must otherwise [come through war]."
issues built support for annexation. Slaveholders were angry
that their enslaved workers were escaping to Florida. Another
issue involved the boundaries of the Louisiana Territory. The
United States acquired the Louisiana Territory from France in
1803 when Jefferson was president. The Louisiana Purchase
doubled the size of the nation. The treaty, however, did not
set the boundaries of the Louisiana Territory. Some Americans
declared that the purchase included the part of West Florida
from Louisiana to the present-day Alabama-Florida border. The
Spanish continued to govern this region.
Back to TopWest Florida
Some Americans decided to take matters into
their own hands. In 1810, a group captured the Spanish Fort
San Carlos in Baton Rouge. They declared the independence of
the "Republic of West Florida." That same year, President
James Madison claimed Florida from the Mississippi River to
the Perdido River as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Spain
criticized the action, but because it was involved in war with
France, did not take action. In 1813, the United States took
another piece of West Florida by annexing the land between the
Pearl and the Perdido rivers.
During the War of 1812
between Great Britain and the United States, the British
captured Pensacola. General Andrew Jackson led U.S. forces and
drove the British out of Pensacola. Later, General Jackson
would achieve greater fame by defeating the British during the
Battle of New Orleans.
During the colonial era, English settlers had
pushed Native Americans farther south. As early as 1702,
Creeks began coming to Florida. They mixed with Timucuans and
Apalachees. They also mixed with Africans who had escaped from
the British plantations. Eventually, these people were known
During the second Spanish period in
Florida (1783-1821), more Native Americans and fugitive slaves
came into the territory. Relations between white settlers and
the Native Americans worsened. In 1816, U.S. troops destroyed
Fort Apalachicola to punish the Seminoles for harboring
runaway slaves. The Seminole had been using the abandoned
fort. The incident touched off armed conflict. Seminoles began
staging raids into Georgia, and then returning to the safety
of Spanish Florida. General Andrew Jackson pursued the
Seminole into Florida.
In the spring of 1818, General
Jackson seized St. Marks and Pensacola, and ordered the
executions of two British citizens. The British government
condemned Jackson's conduct but took no action. John Quincy
Adams, the Secretary of State under President James Monroe,
defended Jackson's actions and hinted that the United States
might take Florida by force.
Spanish leaders realized
that they would be unable to hold Florida. With the Adams-Onís
Treaty of 1819, Spain gave up Florida. Two years later, the
Spanish flag was lowered forever in Pensacola and St.
Back to TopThe Territory of
In March 1821, Andrew
Jackson was appointed as temporary governor to supervise
Florida's transition from a Spanish territory into an American
territory. When Spain transferred Florida to the United States
on July 17, 1821, Jackson turned in his
Many Americans wondered why the United
States wanted Florida. Virginia Congressman John Randolph
"Florida, sir, is not worth buying. It
is a land of swamps, of quagmires, of frogs and alligators and
mosquitoes! A man, sir, would not immigrate into Florida. No,
sir! No man would immigrate into Florida.."
Officially, Florida was now a territory of the
United States. Florida was organized and governed according to
the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Florida had an appointed
territorial governor, a territorial legislature, and a
non-voting delegate to the United States Congress.
1822, President James Monroe appointed William P. DuVal of
Leon County as the first territorial governor of Florida. A
native of Virginia, DuVal had served in the Kentucky state
legislature and as a district judge for Florida. DuVal served
three terms as Florida's territorial governor. Years later,
DuVal served in the Florida state senate.
Hernandez was appointed as the territory's first delegate to
Congress. He was born in St. Augustine of Minorcan parents.
Hernandez later served as mayor of St. Augustine. During the
Second Seminole War, he became brigadier general of the East
Florida militia (volunteers.) He was the first Hispanic
American in Congress and the first Hispanic mayor of a
The first act of the territorial legislature
established four counties and set up local courts. The four
counties were Escambia, Jackson, DuVal, and St.
Back to TopThe Territory Grows
Tallahassee was chosen as the territorial
capital in 1824. Tallahassee was chosen because it lay roughly
midway between St. Augustine and Pensacola, Florida's major
cities at that time. The population of the territory was less
than 8,000, including enslaved African Americans. However,
that would change as news of fertile land spread and thousands
of new settlers streamed into Florida. Because cotton
production exhausted the soil, planters in Virginia, Georgia,
and the Carolinas abandoned their plantations for new land in
Florida. Many established cotton and tobacco plantations,
especially in the Panhandle and northern Florida. Many small
farms and cattle ranches dotted the region of central Florida.
The leading planters of northern Florida played an important
role in the government and politics of the territory.
Moving crops and goods by wagon was difficult.
Even major roads that had existed for a long time, such as
King's Road between the St. Mary's River and New Smyrna and
into Georgia, were bumpy and uneven. The arrival of steamboats
in the mid-1820s improved transportation and helped towns grow
along the rivers. By the mid-1830s, railroad lines were
operating. Many of the early railroads were short lines. Among
the most important were lines from St. Joseph to Lake Wimico
and Tallahassee to Port Leon.
The Second Seminole
Many new settlers had
their eyes on the rich land occupied by the Seminole. In 1823
near St. Augustine, a group of Seminole chiefs met with
Governor DuVal. According to the terms of the Treaty of
Moultrie Creek, they were forced to leave the productive land
around Tallahassee for a reservation with poorer land in
Central Florida. When Andrew Jackson was elected president, he
wanted to move all Native Americans to west of the Mississippi
River. In 1830, he signed into law the Indian Removal Act. An
Indian territory, which is now the state of Oklahoma, was set
aside for all Native Americans.
Back to TopOsceola
Seminoles did not want to give up their homes and refused to
move. Only a few left for Oklahoma. As tension mounted in the
territory, a Seminole leader, Osceola, angrily
"Am I a slave? I will make the white man red
with blood, and blacken him in the sun and
For making threats such as this, Osceola
was imprisoned for six days. He swore vengeance against
General Wiley Thompson, the new agent of Indian
The War Starts
The government set January 1, 1836, as the
deadline for the Seminole to leave for Oklahoma. On December
28th, Osceola and 20 followers killed General Thompson and
another officer near Ft. King. On that same day, Seminole
chief Micanopy attacked a detachment of about 140 soldiers led
by Major Francis Dade as it was moving from Ft. Brooke to Ft.
King. Only three soldiers survived the slaughter. Thus, the
longest, bloodiest, and most expensive of all Indian wars in
the United States began.
The Seminole and their African
American allies fought the armed forces of the United States
from 1835 to 1842. Most of the Seminole and African American
leaders were killed, captured, or sent to Oklahoma. After six
and a half years, U.S. forces had lost 1,500 troops. The war
had cost millions of dollars.
Seminole chief Coacoochee
expressed the feelings of his people when he saw Florida for
the last time and said:
"I am looking at the last
pine tree on my land.... It was my home, I loved it, and to
leave it now is like burying my wife and child."
Third Seminole War
A Third Seminole War was fought from 1855 to
1858. More Seminoles were killed or forced to leave. Those
that survived fled deep into the Everglades. The present
Seminoles and Miccosukees of Florida are descendants of about
50 people who escaped capture.
Back to TopThe Twenty-Seventh State
Once a U.S. territory had
60,000 people, it could become a state. In 1837, the
territory's census reported 48,000 people lived in Florida.
Enslaved people made up about one-half of Florida's
population. A vote was taken to determine if Floridians wanted
to form a state. Only white men over 21 years of age could
vote. The people chose statehood and now a constitution was
chose 56 people to attend the constitutional convention in St.
Joseph, a small port city on the Gulf Coast. The first
constitution provided for a governor elected for four years
and an elected General Assembly, or legislature. Slavery was
permitted, and the state was asked to set up public schools.
The delegates approved the constitution on January 11, 1839.
It was sent to the U.S. Congress for final approval, or
ratification. Florida wanted to enter the Union as a slave
state. It would take six years for Congress to act.
Back to TopStatehood
In 1845, President John Tyler signed the bill
allowing Florida to become a slave state. In order to obtain
the approval of Northern states, Iowa became a free state.
Thus, the balance between the slave and free states in the
nation remained the same in Congress.
the twenty-seventh state in the United States on March 3,
1845. Shortly after, Floridians elected William D. Moseley to
serve as the first governor of the state. Moseley encouraged
the growth of agriculture, especially citrus and cotton.
Moseley helped establish state-funded public schools.
Construction of the state capitol was also completed during
his term in office.
David Levy Yulee and James D.
Westcott, Jr., took their seats in the United States Senate as
the first senators from Florida on December 1, 1845. Yulee
would later serve in the Senate of the Confederate States of
America. Westcott would serve as Florida Attorney General
after the Civil War.
Back to TopFlorida in 1850
By 1850 the population of the young state
numbered nearly 88,000. Included in the total were about
39,000 enslaved people and 1,000 free African Americans. The
three largest counties were Leon with 11,442 people, Gadsden
with 8,784, and Jefferson with 7,718.
was growing, its population ranked low among the Southern
states. Alabama, for example, had 8 times as many people as
Florida did; Georgia had 11 times as
Economically, too, Florida was growing.
Manufacturing industries in Florida produced $660,000 in goods
and services in 1850. Florida had 4,143 farms. Yet only two
states-California and Minnesota-had fewer farms than Florida
Florida would continue to grow. In the late 1800s
and early 1900s, people from many places made Florida their
home. Its rich natural resources made it a leader in
agriculture. Florida's climate and coastlines along both the
Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico proved to be major
forces in attracting people to work and to live.