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Florida Becomes a State

British Rule in Florida
New Smyrna
Life in East and West Florida
Florida and the American Revolution
The Second Spanish Period
United States Acquires Florida
West Florida
Conflict
The Territory of Florida
The Territory Grows
Transporting Goods
The Second Seminole War
Osceola
The War Starts
Third Seminole War
The Twenty-Seventh State
The First Constitution
Statehood
Florida in 1850


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 States.

New Smyrna
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.

Turnbull and 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 Florida
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 multilingual society.

Florida and the American Revolution
When Americans 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 war.

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.

Gálvez 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 Spanish America.

When the Peace of Paris was signed in 1783, the American colonies had won their independence. The British also gave Florida back to Spain.

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The Second Spanish Period
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.

United States Acquires Florida
When 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 country.

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]."

Other 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.

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West 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.


Conflict
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 as Seminoles.

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. Augustine.


Micanopy

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The Territory of Florida
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 resignation.

Many Americans wondered why the United States wanted Florida. Virginia Congressman John Randolph argued that

"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.

In 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.

Joseph 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 city.

The first act of the territorial legislature established four counties and set up local courts. The four counties were Escambia, Jackson, DuVal, and St. Johns.

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The 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.

Transporting Goods
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 War
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.

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Osceola
Many 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 said,

"Am I a slave? I will make the white man red with blood, and blacken him in the sun and rain."

For making threats such as this, Osceola was imprisoned for six days. He swore vengeance against General Wiley Thompson, the new agent of Indian Affairs.


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.

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The 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 needed.

The First Constitution
Florida voters 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.

Tallahassee Capitol Building

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Statehood
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.

Florida became 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.

Senator Levy Yulee

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Florida 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.

Although Florida 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 many.

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 did.

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.

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