Florida History Term Paper

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Florida History

Florida was ruled by Spain for over 200 years. There was little to view by the 1750's. St. Augustine remained a small military town of two thousand soldiers and settlers. The most prosperous merchants were those who operated food services for the troops. On the Gulf side, Pensacola was barely more than a few wooden houses and a fort. The mission system was in ruins. (Florida's past: People and events that shaped the state, V. 1, 2, 3 by Gene M. Burnett (Pineapple Press, c1988).)

The greatest weakness of Spanish Florida was its inability to attract families to live there. The rulers of Spain forbade the colonialization of non-Catholics and any trade with English America. Spaniards refused to settle in Florida. Investors felt their money would be better spent in Cuba and Mexico. This was Spanish Florida, obviously under populated and underdeveloped. Its cultural and economic contributions limited to a few places. This would not have been a dangerous situation if the growing English colonies would not be so close and prepared to one-day overrun the Florida peninsula. Few Florida governors were politicians, but they were required to administer the law of the Council of the Indies and resolve petty problems. To improve matters, a town council or junta of town and military leaders helped solve problems. Unfortunately, most of the village, from guardian of the convent to harbor master to auxiliary bishop was on the Governor's payroll.

The Spanish bureaucracy buried Governors in paperwork. The autocratic, centralized Spanish system kept St. Augustine supplied with dispatches and edicts. Spain assumed that Florida could carry out a law originally designed for Argentina. With no audience, or civil court, the Governor was frequently required to settle minor disputes. An infantry officer was appointed to serve as defense attorney. This was crude frontier justice. In 1579 the Spanish Crown took over the financial support of Florida when no rich nobleman could be located. The Governor was still responsible for the economy, but the King made the rules. Florida could not do business with the nearby English colonies. English merchants could not visit St. Augustine. Florida never showed a profit

The cost of Florida was paid to the Governor in the form of an annual subsidy or situado. The salaries of every public employee (maybe 90% of the populace) had to come from this subsidy. Florida produced the same crops as Cuba, Hispaniola, and Mexico so investment from outside sources never developed. Franciscans developed the most successful farms around the missions in the fertile Alachua and Apalachee regions. The missionaries sold fruits and cotton to St. Augustine. A few civilians began a successful lumber industry along the St. Johns River. Naval products, such as tar, pitch, resin, ship masts, and wood pegs, were shipped to the Atlantic Ocean. Others tried to raise cattle on the Alachua prairie. In the 1740's Spanish authorities set up a trading firm, the Royal Havana Company, to promote trade and scare off English merchants. The Company did not offer local farmers a price competitive to English merchants in the Carolinas so the project never materialized.

When the British took over they immediately divided Florida into two distinct colonies with the Apalachicola River as the boundary. St. Augustine remained the capital of East Florida, while Pensacola became the capital of West Florida. With poor road transportation and an enormous voyage around the Florida Keys, the new arrangement allowed more effective administration than the Spanish system. Just like the thirteen colonies to the North, appointed governor governed the two Florida's with a lieutenant governor and a chief justice as primary staff members. ("Florida Indians and the Invasion from Europe" by Jerald T. Milanich.)

Both colonies started as marginal endeavors, and like the previous Spanish governors, Florida's officials were obliged to save money from the contingency fund to keep public services operating. The English, however, had one major advantage over the Spanish: the ability to recruit settlers, particularly families to the New World. The British Parliament cooperated by setting a goal of channeling migration away from the Indian lands west of the Appalachians to newly acquired Florida. The Proclamation of 1763 outlawed settlement west of the Appalachians while promoting Florida. The London Board of Trade advertised 20,000-acre lots to any group willing to enter Florida. The land, however, had to be settled within ten years with one resident per 100 acres. While the Privy Council in London granted land titles, pioneer families could gain land grants at the two colonial capitals. Former British soldiers were eligible for special grants. Each pioneer settler was given 100 acres of land and 50 acres per family member. To recruit Southerners, slavery was allowed. Despite these incentives, the British Governors had to keep his staff at a minimum: a secretary, an attorney general, a surveyor, a registrar of titles, a trade agency, an Anglican clergyman, and two school teachers made up the payroll. Careful use of the contingency fund might allow for the additional recruitment of a coroner, a jailer, a clerk of court, and Indian agents. Any new requests took six months to gain approval from London

Florida, like Virginia, made the Church of England (Anglican) the official state religion. Florida's few towns filled up under British rule, but there was little change in the two decades when England operated the two Florida's. St. Augustine remained a village of narrow streets lined with squat coquina houses and walled courtyards. The English residents, at first ignorant of Spanish architecture, remodeled the houses until they discovered the Spanish design kept out the winter wind and the summer mosquitoes. They quickly adopted Spanish customs. British town life may have lacked some of the music and zest of a Spanish military garrison, but it had families and some thirty ships per year. Tropical goods and lumber were sent to South Carolina and indigo dye and naval products to the North. The workforce was still quite limited, but there was general optimism that British East Florida would soon develop. The British also brought in an African-American slave populace for the large plantations. Pensacola and West Florida, with its sandy, coastal soils and heavy forests, lagged behind in development. The region produced no staple, money crops except lumber and furs. The pioneer homesteaders who entered the area survived on crops of corn, beans, cotton, tobacco, and rice. There were only a few plantations since the Tallahassee Hills were considered less secure for the frontier farmer The Treaty of Paris in 1783 returned Florida to Spanish rule, much to the chagrin of Southern planters who would have rather the peninsular remain under English control than the collapsing Spanish system. Yet, for the next forty years the Spanish remained in Florida, probably in part to the capable leadership of one VICENTE MANUEL de ZESPEDES By 1784, relations between Spain and the United States had reached the point of armed conflict. After serious incidents between the Spanish and American merchants on the Mississippi River, Spain closed the port of New Orleans to American vessels. ("Creating an Old South: Middle Florida's Plantation Frontier before the Civil War" by Edward E. Batist.)

Andrew Jackson of the Unites States of America returned to Florida in 1821 to establish a new territorial government on behalf of the United States. What the U.S. inherited was a wilderness sparsely dotted with settlements of native Indian people, African-Americans, and Spaniards As a territory of the United States, Florida was particularly attractive to people from the older Southern plantation areas of Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia, who arrived in considerable numbers. After territorial status was granted, the two Florida's were merged into one entity with a new capital city in Tallahassee. Florida became the twenty-seventh state in the United States on March 3, 1845. By 1850 the population had grown…[continue]

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