Adams–Onís Treaty: Wikis


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Map showing results of the Adams–Onís Treaty.

The Adams–Onís Treaty of 1819,[1] also known as the Transcontinental Treaty of 1819, settled a border dispute in North America between the United States and Spain. The treaty was the result of increasing tensions between the U.S. and Spain regarding territorial rights at a time of weakened Spanish power in the New World. In addition to ceding Florida to the United States, the treaty settled a boundary dispute along the Sabine River in Texas and firmly established the boundary of U.S. territory and claims through the Rocky Mountains and west to the Pacific Ocean in exchange for the U.S. paying residents' claims against the Spanish government up to a total of $5,000,000 and relinquishing its own claims on parts of Texas west of the Sabine River and other Spanish areas under the terms of the Louisiana Purchase.



East and West Florida.

The treaty was negotiated by John Quincy Adams, the Secretary of State under U.S. President James Monroe, and the Spanish foreign minister Luis de Onís.


Spain's Colonies

While Spain at first refused to rewrite any border in favor of the U.S., Spain had been forced to negotiate because it was losing its hold on its American empire, with its western colonies primed to revolt. While fighting escaped African-American slaves, outlaws and Native Americans in U.S.-controlled Georgia during the First Seminole War, Andrew Jackson had pursued them into Spanish Florida, but at the same time, he attacked and captured Spanish forts in Florida with absolutely no provocation, thus threatening war with Spain and causing national controversy. Some of Monroe's cabinet demanded Jackson's immediate dismissal, but Adams realized that it put the U.S. in a favorable diplomatic position. Although Spanish power in the New World had long been in decline, Jackson's attacks had exposed how weak Spain was in the New World to the U.S., Latin American revolutionaries, and the other European powers. Taking an aggressive stance, Adams was able to negotiate very favorable terms.

In its weakened state, it was fairly certain that Spain would lose the land to the United States following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Spain had questioned the validity of the purchase, stating that France had no right to sell Louisiana because such a sale went against the agreements in the Treaty of San Ildefonso, and furthermore, there was much discussion about the extent of the area that the United States had bought from France. The Spanish had a very restrictive view of Louisiana, considering it to comprise the west bank of the Mississippi and the city of New Orleans. The United States on the other hand claimed that the land they bought extended all the way to the Rio Grande and the Rocky Mountains.[2] Eventually the U.S. conceded in their claim to only go as far west as the Sabine River but Spain insisted upon the Arroyo Hondo boundary. Negotiations broke down in 1805 when Spain severed diplomatic relations with the U.S. As neither side wanted to go to war over the dispute, an agreement was reached to create a Neutral Ground until the formal boundary could be worked out by the two governments.

Details of the treaty

Following the Treaty, the U.S. received the territorial rights to Spanish Florida (British East and West Florida) in exchange for payments by the United States of residents' claims against the Spanish government up to a total of $5,000,000 and relinquishing its own claims on parts of Texas west of the Sabine River and other Spanish areas. The treaty was concluded on February 22, 1819, in Washington, D.C., ratifications were exchanged, and the treaty was proclaimed on February 22, 1821. The U.S. commission established to adjudicate claims considered some 1800 claims and agreed that they were worth $5,454,545.13. Since the treaty limited the payment of claims to $5 million, the commission reduced the amount paid out proportionately by 8 1/3 per cent.

The Adams-Onís Treaty settled the dispute by attempting to draw clearer borders, roughly granting Florida and Louisiana to the U.S. while giving to Spain everything west of Louisiana from Texas to California. The new boundary was to be the Sabine River north from the Gulf of Mexico to the 32nd parallel north, then due north to the Red River, west along the Red River to the 100th meridian west, due north to the Arkansas River, west to its headwaters, north to the 42nd parallel north, and finally west along that parallel to the Pacific Ocean. Informally this has been called the "Step Boundary."

The claims of Spain on the Oregon Country dated to the papal bull of 1493 which had granted to Spain the rights to colonize the western coast of North America and to the actions of Vasco Núñez de Balboa in 1513, when he claimed all the "South Sea" (the Pacific Ocean) and the lands adjoining the Pacific Ocean for the Spanish Crown. To solidify these 250-year old claims, in the late 1700s Spain established a military and trading outpost in today's British Columbia and performed "acts of sovereignty" in today's Alaska. As a result of the Adams-Onís Treaty, the United States acquired the claims of Spain to the Oregon Country north of the 42nd parallel.

Perceived impact on territories

For the United States, this treaty meant that its claimed territory now extended far west from the Mississippi, all the way to the Pacific Ocean. For Spain, it meant that it kept its colonies in Texas and also kept a buffer zone between its colonies in California and New Mexico and the US territories. Adams considered this to be his greater achievement, as he foresaw that Oregon would allow trade with the Orient and economic powers in the Pacific.

Later problems with the treaty

An 1833 map of the United States in the shape of an eagle

The treaty was ratified by Spain in 1820, and by the United States in 1821 (during the time that Spain and Mexico were engaged in the prolonged Mexican War of Independence). The Adams-Onís treaty was concluded with Spain, and war with Spain was delayed for 77 years. While Mexico was not initially a party to the treaty, in 1831 Mexico had ratified the treaty, including setting the 42nd parallel as the northern boundary of California. However, by the mid-1830s, a controversy developed regarding the border with Texas, during which the United States demonstrated that the Sabine and Neches rivers had been switched on maps, moving the frontier in favor of Mexico. As a consequence, the eastern boundary of Texas was not firmly established until the independence of the Republic of Texas in 1836, and not agreed upon until the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 which concluded the Mexican-American War. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo also formalized the cession by Mexico of Alta California and today's American Southwest except for the territory of the Gadsden Purchase.

Another dispute occurred after Texas joined the Union. The treaty stated that the boundary between the French claims on the north and the Spanish claims on the south was Rio Roxo de Natchitoches (Red River) until it reached the 100th meridian as noted on John Melish's map published in 1818. The problem was that the 100th meridian on the Melish map was some 90 miles east of the true 100th meridian and the Red River forked about 50 miles east of the 100th meridian. Texas claimed the land south of the North Fork and the United States claimed the land north of the South Fork (later called the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River). In 1860 the area was organized as Greer County, Texas. The matter was not settled until a United States Supreme Court ruling in 1896 upheld federal claims to the territory, after which it was added to Oklahoma.

See also


  1. ^ formally titled the Treaty of Amity, Settlement, and Limits Between the United States of America and His Catholic Majesty, sometimes the Florida Purchase Treaty,
  2. ^ Hämäläinen, Pekka (2008). The Comanche Empire. Yale University Press. p. 156. ISBN 978-0-300-12654-9.  


External links


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