Today in Florida History | Spain sells Florida to United States
Spanish minister Do Luis de Onis and U.S. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams sign the Florida Purchase Treaty, by which Spain agrees to cede the remainder of its distant province of Florida to the United States.
Spanish colonization of the Florida peninsula started at St. Augustine in 1565. The Spanish colonists experienced a brief period of comparative stability before Florida came under assault from resentful Native Americans and aspiring English colonists to the north in the 17th century. Spain’s last-minute admission into the French and Indian War siding with France cost it Florida, which the British acquired through the first Treaty of Paris in 1763. After 20 years of British rule, however, Florida was reverted to Spain as part of the second Treaty of Paris, which concluded the American Revolution in 1783.
Spain’s hold on Florida was insubstantial in the years after American independence, and various boundary disputes developed with the United States. In 1819, after years of compromise, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams obtained a diplomatic coup with the signing of the Florida Purchase Treaty, which officially placed Florida into U.S. hands at no cost beyond the U.S. usurpation of some $5 million of claims by U.S. citizens against Spain. Formal U.S. ownership began in 1821, and General Andrew Jackson, the hero of the War of 1812, was designated as military governor. Florida was established as a U.S. territory in 1822 and was adopted into the Union as a slave state in 1845.
The Adams-Onis Treaty, officially named the Transcontinental Treaty, was approved in 1819 by theUnited States and Spain. The settlement, which was ratified on February 21, 1821, settled boundary disputes separating the two nations. The terms of the preceding Louisiana Purchase (1803) neglected to specify completely the boundaries of the territory that the United States had acquired from France. Britain and the United States soon quarreled over the Louisiana Territory’s northern boundary. Spain and the United States reached a deadlock over where the boundary lay between the U.S. territory and Spanish America—Spain’s territory in Florida, along the Gulf Coast, and in the Southwest. The terms of the Adams-Onis Treaty were mediated by U.S. Secretary of State (later elected president) John Quincy Adams (1767–1848) and Spanish Minister to the United States Luis de Onis (1762–1827). The treaty established the line of demarcation between the new republic and old Spanish territorial claims. The countries acknowledged that the western boundary of the United States began at the mouth of the Sabine River (which today forms the border between western Louisiana and eastern Texas). From there the boundary ran at a Northwest angle until it approached 42 degrees north latitude. It then followed this line of latitude west to the Pacific Ocean. Territory lying east and north of this line belonged to the United States; regions lying west and south of this line belonged to Spain. With this treaty, the United States obtained all of Florida as well as a southern strip of Alabama and Mississippi (commonly called the Old Southwest). Spain preserved its claim to the Southwest, which was approximately the area of present-day Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California. As a component of the treaty, the United States agreed to repay $5 million in claims of U.S. citizens against Spain. The claims were made by people who had settled in the peninsula, predominately the panhandle (then called West Florida), while it was still a settlement of Spain.
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