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Florida Becomes a Territory

A History of Florida


Spanish Rule. For more than two hundred years the Spanish flag had waved over East and West Florida, then the English flag, and then the Spanish again. You have learned how St. Augustine, the first lasting settlement in what is now the United States, was established. Later Pensacola on the western coast was founded, the fort of St. Marks was built, and there were a few settlements in other parts of the country. Except in the neighborhood of the few towns, the Indians were the real owners and rulers of the land. They roamed at will through the great forests, hunting and fishing, clearing land and raising their crops, undisturbed by the Spaniards.

Necessity of annexing Florida. But there was still trouble between these Indians and their American neighbors, and Spain could not or would not end these troubles; it was believed that for the sake of peace and safety the United States must acquire possession of Florida. So it was proposed that Spain should exchange Florida for a part of Louisiana next to Texas, but nothing came of this plan.

How long had Florida been settled? Who still occupied most of the territory? What conditions made it important for the United States to acquire Florida?

Treaty of Acquisition. However, Jackson's rapid marches and the punishment he dealt the Indians and their allies for injuries to American settlements, proved to Spain that she could not rule her territory or keep the Indians under control without a large army and heavy expense. Finally, after much discussion, a treaty was signed on Feb. 22, 1819, by which Spain agreed to transfer Florida to the United States for the sum of five million dollars, and the payment of certain claims. This treaty was ratified by Spain, Oct. 24, 1820, but ratifications were not exchanged at Washington till Feb. 22, 1821. This was the second great land purchase made by our government. General Jackson was appointed military governor of the two Floridas until a regular government should be formed.

Jackson receives the Territory. The exchange of flags took place on July 10, 1821, at St. Augustine, and on July 17, 1821, at Pensacola. General Jackson was appointed military governor, and went to receive the new Territory and arrange for the exchange of flags at Pensacola the same ceremony at St. Augustine being conducted by Adjutant General Butler.

Ceremonies at St. Augustine. At 4 P.M. the transfer of authority took place at the Government House, and the city keys were delivered. The Spanish flag was withdrawn under a salute from the fort, and the Spanish guard marched out. When they approached the American troops they exchanged salutes with them. Then the Americans marched into the fortress and fired a salute to their flag, which had been raised on the standard of the Spanish flag at 3 P.M.

What proposition was first made? Give the particulars of the treaty of purchase. When was the exchange of authority made? What was General Jackson's official position? Where did he take possession? Give the particulars of the transfer of authority at St. Augustine.

Stars and Stripes at Pensacola. Seven days later the American flag was raised at Pensacola. For three weeks transports had been bringing Spanish soldiers from St. Marks so that they might sail for Cuba at the same time with the troops at Pensacola. During all this time General Jackson remained outside the city, declaring that he would not enter it until he came under the American flag; but he had daily communication with the Spanish governor and arranged his plans for taking possession.

Spanish Standard
Spanish Standard

The Transfer Ceremonies. Early on the morning of the appointed day the whole town was astir, and there was great excitement when the American troops, with waving banners and cheering music, marched into the town and took their position oil the public square opposite the Government House. When they had arrived, the Spanish soldiers, in elegant uniform, marched from the barracks to all opposite position. Men, women, and children thronged the streets, looked from every window, and were crowded on every balcony. Among them on the streets were many negroes and Indians. It was a sad day for the Spaniards and many of them wept. Out of regard to their feelings General Jackson avoided everything that had the appearance of triumph, and there was no shouting or cheering.

It was about ten o'clock in the morning when General Jackson rode into town with his staff officers, and dismounting, walked, followed by his staff, through the lines of American and Spanish soldiers to the Government House. There he was received by the Spanish governor, Callava. All had been arranged so that the ceremony of transfer would require only a few minutes. The business finished, Governor Callava and General Jackson walked together through the lines of soldiers to the center of the square.

There stood the flagstaff from which still floated the Spanish colors. At a signal from General Jackson the American flag ascended. Meeting halfway, the two flags rested together as if to declare friendship, then the flag of our country ascended and the Spanish flag was lowered. Florida was now a Territory of the United States.

For what did Jackson postpone entering Pensacola? Tell of the transfer of flags.

Relations with Indians. The Indians were by no means pleased with the exchange of government, and said that it was not lawful, because the land was a gift from the Great Spirit to the red men and not to the Spaniards. So, with heavy hearts, the principal chiefs went to Pensacola to have a "talk" with the new governor. General Jackson spoke kindly to them. He said he was glad to meet them as a friend, for the hatchet was buried and the Great Father did not wish to see it raised again. He told them that the Creek Indians, who did not belong to Florida, must return to their own nation and chiefs; runaway slaves must return to their owners; and the Indians who belonged in Florida must be gathered together in one part of the Territory, where the President would give them the same rights as the white men.

Who surrendered the city? Tell of the relations with the Indians. How did Jackson treat them?

The Seminoles. To all of this one of the chiefs replied: "White people live in towns where many thousands work together on small grounds; but the Seminole is a wild and scattered people. The Seminole swims the streams and leaps over the logs of the forest in pursuit of game, and is like the whooping crane that makes its nest at night far from the spot where it dashed the dew from the grass and flowers in the morning. For a hundred summers the Seminole warrior has rested under the shade of his live oaks, and the suns of a hundred winters have risen upon his ardent pursuit of the buck and bear, with none to question or dispute his claims."

Although the chiefs were not satisfied, they agreed to "carry the talk," to their people, and gather them together for a council. It was plain, even now, that American government was to be very different from any they had known, and they remembered with longing the time when Spanish governors at Pensacola and St. Augustine bad left them to live as they would.

Jackson Resigns. General Jackson's ambition as governor of Florida seems to have been soon satisfied. His health was poor, having suffered from the hardships of his campaigns, and he longed for the quiet and rest of his Tennessee home. In October, leaving Colonel George Walton as acting governor in his absence, he left Pensacola, to begin his slow journey homeward. He had certainly filled the people of Florida with a dread of his severity; but it is pleasant to know also of the devotion of his soldiers and staff officers to him.

How did the Seminole chief describe his people? How long did Jackson continue governor of Florida? What caused his withdrawal? When and where did he go? Who acted in his stead? Tell of his traits of character.

They had reason to know that the stern soldier had a kind heart. He was indeed a terrible enemy, but the best of friends; quick tempered and hasty, but brave and patriotic, and as honest as he was brave. Alone in the world at the age of fourteen, poor and friendless, he had fought his way through life, step by step, always brave, always honest. He was now a great soldier and had received honors. But greater honors still were in store for him; for ten years later he became President of the United States. His name is written more than once on the map of Florida, for Jackson County, the city of Jacksonville, and Lake Jackson are named for him.

Excerpt from Part Two, Chapter One, "How Florida Became a Territory of the United States" A History of Florida, 1904. Next Section; Table of Contents.


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