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The Territory of Florida was an organized incorporated territory of the United Statesmarker that existed from March 30, 1822, until March 3, 1845, when it was admitted to the Union as the State of Floridamarker. The territory was originally the Spanishmarker colony of La Florida, which was ceded to the United States as part of the 1819 Adams-Onís Treaty.


Florida was first discovered in 1513 by Juan Ponce de Leon who claimed the land as a possession of Spainmarker. The oldest continually inhabited European settlement in the continental U.S., St. Augustinemarker, 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 to the Kingdom of Great Britainmarker in exchange for the release of Havanamarker. In 1783, after the American Revolution, Great Britain was compelled to give Florida back to Spain.

The second term of Spanish rule was heavily influenced by the United States. There were border disputes along the boundary with the state of Georgiamarker and issues of American use of the Mississippi. These problems 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.

American involvement pre-1821

In 1812 United States forces and Georgia "patriots" under General George Matthews invaded Florida to protect American interests. 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. Despite the fact that the Negroes 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. This invasion of Florida was perceived by most of the country as ill-advised and the Spanish were promised a speedy exit of troops.

In 1818 after many 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 Tennesseemarker and marched down the Apalachicola Rivermarker wreaking havoc in North Florida until they came upon Pensacola in March, where the Spanish quickly surrendered.

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. It is widely believed that America paid $5,000,000 to the Spanish as a result of this treaty; however this is a myth. No money was exchanged between the two governments; the U.S. received Florida and Oregonmarker while ceding all Texasmarker claims to Spain.

Territorial Florida and the Seminole Wars

General Andrew Jackson served as military governor of the newly acquired territory, however 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 after the capitol was established at Tallahasseemarker, but only after removing a Seminole tribe from the land.

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. 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.

Beginning in late 1835 Osceola and the Seminole allies began a guerilla war against the U.S. forces. 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. 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


  • Hubert Bruce Fuller, The Florida Purchase, (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1964), Introduction xvii.
  • Ibid., Introduction xviii-xix.
  • Fuller, The, Editorial Preface, xi.
  • Virginia Bergman Peters, The Florida Wars,(Hamden: The Shoestring Press, 1979),39.
  • Ibid.,18-22.
  • Peters, The, 39.
  • Peters, The, 50-54.
  • Peters, The, 63-74.
  • Peters, The, 87.
  • Peters, The, 89-95.
  • Peters, The, 105-110.
  • Peters, The, 137-160.


  1. Hubert Bruce Fuller, The Florida Purchase, (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1964).
  2. Virginia Bergman Peters, The Florida Wars,(Hamden: The Shoestring Press, 1979).

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