Florida (Spanish: Florida) refers to the Spanish territory of Florida, which formed part of the viceroyalties of New Spain (-1820) and Antilles (1823-...) of the Spanish Empire. It limits to the north with British Virginia and west with Louisiana.
While it had no clearly defined boundaries, Spain's claim to this vast area was based on several wide-ranging expeditions mounted during the 16th century and the establishment of various outposts (presidios and missions). However, Spain never exercised real control over La Florida much beyond several settlements and forts which were predominantly located in the peninsula or coastline. The new hinterland settlements of the 17th century were established besides navigable rivers.
The Treaty of Madrid (1670) established the limits of British Virginia and Spanish Florida at latitude 32° 30″. Later agreements, based on de facto occupation, established limits around the watersheds of the Pee Dee and Fear rivers. Spain also expanded its claims to the north of the Muscogui province.
History of Florida
Beginning in the second half of the 16th century, the Kingdom of Spain established a number of missions throughout La Florida in order to convert the Indians to Christianity, to facilitate control of the area, and to prevent its colonization by other countries, in particular, England and France.
The missions north of Florida were divided into four main provinces where the bulk of missionary effort took place. These were Apalachee, Timucua, Mocama, and Guale. These provinces roughly corresponded to the areas where those dialects were spoken among the varying Native American peoples, thus, they reflected the territories of the people. Missionary provinces were relatively fluid and evolved over the years according to demographic and political trends, and at various times smaller provinces were established, abandoned, or merged with larger ones. There were also attempts to establish missions elsewhere, particularly further south into Florida. Of these last ones only the provinces of Timucua, Calusa, Tequesta, Ais and Jeaga were established.
Spanish control of the Florida peninsula was made possible by the collapse of native cultures during the 17th century. Several Native American groups (including the Seminole, Timucua, Calusa, Tequesta, Apalachee. Tocobaga, and the Ais people) had been long-established residents of Florida, and most resisted Spanish incursions into their territory. However, conflict with Spanish expeditions, raids by the English and their native allies, and (especially) diseases brought from Europe resulted in a drastic decline in the population of all of the indigenous peoples of Florida, and the peninsula was left largely uninhabited by the 1700s.
To the west and North to the peninsula of Florida was settlement more active than the swampy lands of Florida. However, these lands were already occupied by the native Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Creeks. The common pattern of settlement was around a fort or garrison which engaged in producing cash crops and trade with local Indians.
In the Seven Years' War (1756-1763) Florida was one of the battlegrounds in North America between the Commonwealth and the Franco-Spanish armies and navies. Native American allied to the Commonwealth repeatedly attacked Spanish mission villages and St. Augustine, burning missions and killing and enslaving Indians. Piracy was also rampant and disrupted trade between French Louisiana and Spanish Cuba.
The Treaty of Paris recognized the rights of Spain over Florida and fixed its frontier with Commonwealth Virginia. An aggressive recruiting policy to attract Peninsular colonists to Florida, by offering free land and backing for export-oriented businesses led to an hacienda system of cash crops such as sugar, coffee, cotton, wheat and corn. The territories north of West and East Florida were the favored allocations for the haciendas and colonization.
From Cuba slave trade brought a large Africa population to work in the haciendas. Spanish Florida also became a destination for escaped slaves from the British colonies. Spain offered them freedom if they converted to Catholicism. Escaped Virginian slaves formed communities near St. Augustine and Villa Carlos and Guale. Others became farmers, sharecroppers or cowboys in the open lands of Muscogui. Friction between former slaves and Seminoles became so common in the late 18th century that restrictions on the sale of lands and Indian labor were enacted.
Restriction due the mercantilist policy of the Spanish Empire limited trade with Cuba. Inner trade with Mexico, Central America was severely controlled. Contraband by Louisianan, Dutch and North American Commonwealth merchants was encouraged by local aristocracy and merchants and tolerated by part of the colonial administration.
The Haitian Revolution and the shock of the horrors of its slave revolution put on guard against independence in Florida. Big landowner of the hacienda system feared a revolt from the slaves. However, slavery was mostly limited to rural Florida for in the major urban centers free blacks under Spanish administration, although down in the social hierarchy, enjoyed more benefits then their slaved kindred.
The call for independence was only promoted in radical clubs. The French Revolution and the exile of the Dauphin Louis-Auguste to Royalist Louisiana only exalted loyalty to the Spanish Crown.
The Wars of American Independence (1811-1825) had no effect of rallying to the cause of independence. This was due to the fear of a bloody slave revolt that many planters feared would happen as happened in Haiti, the proximity of Loyalist Louisiana whose army could take part to defend Florida and the fear of a Commonwealth invasion from Virginia. Save for the failed expedition of Gregor MacGregor (1817) there were no serious armed campaigns.
The independence of Mexco (1820) was received in a dispirited and sorrowful mode. Several fundraising campaigns to arm a military force to reclaim Mexico were organized by Loyalist Floridians. Though none came to being, they were well received in Spain as a mark of loyalty. As a reward, measures of administrative autonomy were granted and several ports opened to trade. Florida became part of the newly created Viceroyalty of Antilles (1823). Loyalist Mexicans emigrated to Mexico and Cuba were they began an hacienda style agricultural exploitation with slaves and cattle raising in ranchos. However, this was made difficult by the swamps that covered large areas of southern Florida and severe weather.
The occupation and annexation of Santo Domingo by Haiti also came with a migration, in lesser numbers then ones that went to Cuba. Though there were demands for self government, the fear of a slave revolt or Indian rebellion kept them down and they were not as radical as the ones petitioned by the Cubans. The main Floridian concern was free trade with its neighbors and unrestricted access to the ownership of Indian lands.
Government and Administration of Florida
Florida is subordinated to the Viceroyalty of New Spain until 1820. However, with the independence of New Spain and the establishment of the Mexican Empire, the administration of Florida was run directly by Spain. In 1823, it became part of the newly established Viceroyalty of Antilles. The Governor of Florida has his administrative seat in San Agustín (English: St. Augustine).
After the proclamation of the Spanish Republic and later the unification with Portugal in Iberia reorganized the government in a Governorship. The Governor, named by the Iberian president, is the chief and head of the administration, with the exception of the judiciary that is named by the Federal Cortes and the Supreme Court of Justice. The Governor is assisted by the Floridan Audiencia, partially elected and partially named by the governor.
Florida is divided in the following districts (later renamed provinces) of:
- West Florida (Capital: Pensacola)
- East Florida (San Agustín)
- Ayllon (Villa Carlos)
- Apalaches (Santa Catalina de Guale)
- Muscogui (Apalachicola)
Florida also includes five major Native American chiefdoms or confederacies, the five civilized tribes, that are officially protectorates under protection of Spain and later Iberia. Their common characteristics are of Christian faith, centralized governments, literacy, market participation, written constitutions, intermarriage with white Iberians, and plantation slavery practices.
The five civilized tribes are the following:
- Cherokee Nation
- Chickasaw Nation
- Choctaw (Chahta) Nation
- Creek (Muscogee) Confederacy, and
- Seminole Nation
- Marcha Real (Royal March) until 1828
- OTL Charleston, South Carolina