How Britain Won Florida

How Britain Won Florida

Before the American revolution, Florida was colonized by Spain. Florida was Spanish.

Of course it was, as it was colonized by Spanish conquistadors. In fact, the first maps of present day America emblazoned a different name across the country: Florida. 

When Juan Ponce de Leon discovered Florida, he first thought it was an island.

As he discovered Florida continued northward, the map kept expanding... and so did the label of Florida move ever further northward. It got to a point where it looked as if American was originally called Florida.

But the Spanish did not maintain strong bases in America. When the British arrived, borders changed, names changed... and Florida was shrunk down to the peninsula we know today.

However, that peninsula was still owned by the Spanish kingdom.

The Spanish governed over Florida from 1565 - 1763. One could even argue that the Florida governorship is the oldest in the nation, as it has direct lineage to the first governor of America's oldest city, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés of St. Augustine, FL.

From 1565 - 2018, the governing of Florida has been central to American activities. 

I'm not an expert on the history - although I'm brushing up - but it looks like even after the Spanish cede Florida to Britain in 1763, they retake control of it a few decades later until it's officially signed over to the United States and the whole thing is just crazy.

In 1783, after the American Revolution, Great Britain ceded Florida back to Spain under the provisions of the Peace of Paris. The Peace of Paris of 1783 was the set of treaties which ended the American Revolutionary War.

The British lost their Thirteen Colonies and the defeat marked the end of the First British Empire. The United States gained more than it expected, thanks to the award of western territory. The Spanish had a mixed result; they regained Menorca and Florida, but Gibraltar remained in British hands; in the long run, the Florida territory was of little or no value.

The Treaty of Paris was the result of the Seven Years War. It's actually a curious war when you think about it. Here it is at its simplest level: Many different kingdoms had colonies all around the America-side-of-the-world. Since they played by their own rules, empires encroached on other empires. Tensions got heated.

Then the various empires simply went to war with each other, seizing their territories & resources. And in an attempt to create leverage over the other kingdoms, some of the empires decided to fuck with colonies not just in the Americas but all around the world.

So the 7 Years War went down in India, Africa, Europe, etc.

Powerful people heated with lust for more power until mass casualties required set boundaries.

At the end of the war, once all parties agreed to sit down & talk, basically all the land & resources that were seized... were returned. The wild global anything-goes war was over, and now it was time to set strict boundaries that we all could agree on...

And in that delineation, Britain traded Cuba back to Spain in exchange for Florida.

That is how the British colony, soon the be the United States of America, won Florida.

As a curious side note: 20 years later, another Treaty of Paris was signed, this time with the newly formed American government. The treaty's aim was the end the revolutionary war on a global level. Representatives of King George III's England as well as France, Spain, and the Dutch Republic were present at the treaty. One of the conditions of this new treaty was that Florida goes back to Spain's ownership.

And so from one Treaty of Paris to the other, Florida goes from Spain to England to Spain.

And that's how things were for about 40 years, until the Seminole Wars kicked in and shit got tense between the Native Americans, the Spanish colony, and the American government...

John Quincy Adams remarked that the absolute American ownership of Florida was necessary because it was "a derelict open to the occupancy of every enemy, civilized or savage, of the United States, and serving no other earthly purpose than as a post of annoyance to them."

Britain formed East & West Florida after the Treaty of Paris to make it easier to govern. They were divided at the Apalachicola River.

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