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Map of East and West Florida in 1810.

East Florida was originally a part of Spanish Florida. Under the terms of the Treaty of Paris (1763), which ended the Seven Years' War, Spain ceded all of its territory east and southeast of the Mississippi River to the Kingdom of Great Britain.

The British divided the territory into two parts, East Florida, with its capital at St. Augustine, and West Florida, with its capital at Pensacola. The settlement of the British colony at East Florida was heavily linked in London with the same interests that controlled Nova Scotia. The East Florida Society of London and the Nova Scotia Society of London had many overlapping members, and Council frequently followed their suggestions on the granting of lands to powerful merchant interests in London.

"Perhaps it is strange to think of such dissimilar geographic areas with such opposing climates as having much in common," said the Florida Historical Quarterly. "But if one considers naval and military strategy, one can see that these areas have a common significance, especially when viewed from London by the ministry. Halifax (Nova Scotia) was the command post for both the admiral and general in charge of the American forces.... St. Augustine evoked the same strategic considerations. These posts have been described as the two centers of strength to which the British army was withdrawn in the late 1760's."[1]

The apportionment of lands in the new colonies fell to the same group of English and Scottish entrepreneurs and merchant interests, led chiefly by the Englishman Richard Oswald, later a diplomat, and the British General James Grant, who would later become governor of East Florida. A list of the grantees in both Florida and Canada show that the plums fell to a well-connected -- and inter-connected -- group. Lincoln's Inn barrister Levett Blackborne, grandson of Sir Richard Levett, a powerful merchant and Lord Mayor of London, came in for grants of 20,000 acres (81 km2) in both locales, for instance. Other aristocrats, nobles and merchants did the same.

The most powerful lubricant between the East Florida speculators and the Nova Scotia speculators was Col. Thomas Thoroton of Flintham, Nottinghamshire. Thoroton, the stepbrother of Levett Blackborne, had married an illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Rutland and often lived at Belvoir Castle, where he acted as principal agent to the Duke, who, along with his son the Marquis of Granby, were heavily involved in overseas ventures. Thoroton frequently acted as the go-between for Richard Oswald and James Grant, particularly after those two gave up their Nova Scotia Grants to focus on East Florida, where a drumbeat of steady speculation (particularly from Dr. Andrew Turnbull and Dr. William Stork) had fanned the flames of interest in London.[2]

Both Floridas remained loyal to Great Britain during the American War of Independence. Spain participated indirectly in the war as an ally of France and captured Pensacola from the British in 1781. In the Treaty of Paris (1783), which ended the war, the British ceded both Floridas to Spain. The same treaty recognised the independence of the United States, directly to the north.

Spain offered favorable terms for acquiring land, which attracted many settlers from the newly formed United States. There were several territorial disputes between the U.S. and Spain, some resulting in military action. An American army under Andrew Jackson invaded East Florida during the First Seminole War. Jackson's forces captured St. Mark's on April 7, 1818 and Pensacola on May 24, 1818. James Monroe's Secretary of State John Quincy Adams defined the American position on this issue. Adams accused Spain of breaking Pinckney's Treaty by failing to control the Seminoles. Faced with the prospect of losing control, Spain formally ceded all of its Florida territory to the U.S. under the Adams-Onís Treaty in 1819 (ratified in 1821) in exchange for the U.S. ceding its claims on Texas and the U.S. paying any claims its citizens might have against Spain up to $5,000,000.

In 1822, the U.S. Congress organized the Florida Territory, and in 1845, Florida was admitted as the 27th state.

References

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