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Territory of Florida


Territory of Florida

Territory of Florida
Organized incorporated territory of the United States


Capital Tallahassee
Government Organized incorporated territory
 -  1821 Andrew Jackson (military)
 -  1822–1834 William Pope Duval
 -  1834–1836 John Eaton (politician)
 -  1836–1839 Richard K. Call
 -  1839–1841 Robert R. Reid
 -  1841–1844 Richard K. Call
 -  Adams-Onís Treaty 1821
 -  Organized by U.S. March 30 1822
 -  Statehood March 3 1845

The Territory of Florida was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from March 30, 1822, until March 3, 1845, when it was admitted to the Union as the State of Florida. Originally the Spanish territory of La Florida, and later the provinces of East and West Florida, it was ceded to the United States as part of the 1819 Adams-Onís Treaty.[1]


Florida was first discovered in 1513 by Juan Ponce de León who claimed the land as a possession of Spain. St. Augustine, the oldest continually inhabited European settlement in the continental U.S., was founded on the northeast coast of Florida in 1565. Florida continued to remain a Spanish possession until the end of the Seven Years' War when Spain ceded it to the Kingdom of Great Britain in exchange for the release of Havana. In 1783, after the American Revolution, Great Britain ceded Florida back to Spain.[2]:xvii

The second term of Spanish rule was influenced by the nearby United States. There were border disputes along the boundary with the state of Georgia and issues of American use of the Mississippi. These disputes were supposedly solved in 1795 by the Treaty of San Lorenzo which, among other things, solidified the boundary of Florida and Georgia along the 31st parallel. However, as Thomas Jefferson had once predicted, the U.S. could not keep its hands off Florida.[2]:xviii–xix

American involvement pre-1821

In 1812 United States forces and Georgia "patriots" under General George Matthews invaded Florida to protect American interests.[3]:39 These interests were mostly slave related. Runaway slaves had been given protection by the Florida natives, called Seminoles by Americans, for many years. They lived in a semi-feudal system; the Seminoles giving the now "free" blacks protection, while the former slaves shared crops with the natives. Although the escaped slaves were still considered inferior by the Seminoles, the two parties lived in harmony. The slaveholders in Georgia and the rest of the South became furious over this matter as slaves continued to escape to Florida.[3]:18–22 This invasion of Florida was perceived by most of the country as ill-advised and the Spanish were promised a speedy exit of troops.[3]:39

In 1818, after years of further conflicts involving natives and settlers, General Andrew Jackson wrote to President Monroe informing him that he was invading Florida. Jackson's force departed from Tennessee and marched down the Apalachicola River until they arrived at Pensacola; the Spanish surrendered fortifications at Fort San Carlos de Barrancas in Pensacola and at St. Marks.[3]:50–54

Adams-Onís Treaty

The Adams-Onís Treaty, also known as the Transcontinental Treaty, was signed on February 22, 1819 by John Quincy Adams and Luis de Onís, but did not take effect until it was ratified by the Spanish government in 1821. The U.S. received Florida and inherited Spanish claims to the Oregon Territory, while ceding all its claims on Texas to Spain[2]:xi (with the independence of Mexico in 1821, Spanish Texas became Mexican territory), and pledged to indemnify up to $5,000,000 in claims by American citizens against Spain.[note 1] Spanish goods also continued to receive certain tariff privileges in Florida ports.

In Dorr v. USA (195 U.S. 138, 141–142 (1904)) Justice Marshall is quoted more extensively as follows:

The 6th article of the treaty of cession contains the following provision:

'The inhabitants of the territories which His Catholic Majesty cedes the United States by this treaty shall be incorporated in the Union of the United States as soon as may be consistent with the principles of the Federal Constitution, and admitted to the enjoyment of the privileges, rights, and immunities of the citizens of the United States.' [8 Stat. at L. 256.]

[195 U.S. 138, 142] 'This treaty is the law of the land, and admits the inhabitants of Florida to the enjoyment of the privileges, rights, and immunities of the citizens of the United States. It is unnecessary to inquire whether this is not their condition, independent of stipulation. They do not, however, participate in political power; they do not share in the government till Florida shall become a state. In the meantime Florida continues to be a territory of the United States, governed by virtue of that clause in the Constitution which empowers Congress 'to make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States."


Territorial Florida and the Seminole Wars

Andrew Jackson served as military governor of the newly acquired territory, but only for a brief period. On March 30, 1822, the United States merged East Florida and part of West Florida into the Florida Territory. William Pope Duval became the first official governor of the Florida Territory and soon afterward the capital was established at Tallahassee, but only after removing a Seminole tribe from the land.[3]:63–74

The central conflict of Territorial Florida was the Seminole inhabitants. The federal government and most white settlers desired all Florida Indians to migrate to the West. On May 28, 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act requiring all native Americans to move west of the Mississippi River.[3]:87 The Act itself did not mean much to Florida, however it laid the framework for the Treaty of Paynes Landing which was signed by a council of Seminole chiefs on May 9, 1832. This treaty stated that all Seminole inhabitants of Florida should be relocated by 1835, giving them three years. It was at this meeting that the famous Osceola first voiced his decision to fight.[3]:89–95

Beginning in late 1835 Osceola and the Seminole allies began a guerilla war against the U.S. forces.[3]:105–110 Numerous generals fought and failed, succumbing to the heat and disease as well as lack of knowledge of the land. It was not until General Thomas Jesup captured many of the key Seminole chiefs, including Osceola who died in captivity of illness, that the battles began to die down.[3]:137–160 The Seminoles were eventually forced to migrate and almost all were gone, except for a small group in the Everglades, by the time Florida joined the Union as the 27th state on March 3, 1845.

See also

Florida portal
History portal



External links

  • Library of Congress website.

Coordinates: 30°N 83°W / 30°N 83°W / 30; -83

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