History of St. Augustine The British and Second Spanish Periods
I. Meaning of Florida to the British Empire
A. Great Britain emerged from the Seven Years' War as the world's dominant
1. France excluded from North America.
a. Ceded Canada and all territory east of Mississippi, except New
Orleans, to Great Britain.
/ 743 b. Ceded Louisiana (New Orleans) to Spain to compensate her for the
loss of Florida.
2. Spain's weakness revealed by British capture of Havana and Manila
B. Great Britain acquired Florida from Spain in exchange for Havana
L Many Englishmen would have preferred to keep Havana or to annex
some of the Spanish West Indian sugar islands. (Sugar islands were
2. Strategic considerations won out Great Britain rounded out her
possessions in North America. She was now master of eastern
II. Reorganization of Florida
A. Carried out by rcyal proclamation in 1763
B. Divided Florida into two separate provinces
1. West Florida --included all the lands between the Mississippi and
Chattahoochee Rivers up to latitude 310 (later moved north to 320 28').
2. East Florida included the rest of Florida, including the peninsula.
(In this lecture we shall be concerned with East Florida.)
S III. The transfer of Florida & St. Augustine
A. Treaty of Paris (Feb. 10, 1763) gave the Spanish residents 18 months to
settle their affairs and dispose of their properties if they planned to leave.
1. Buyers were few
a. British soldiers had little money
b. Civilian settlers hoped to receive free grants of land.
2. Few Spaniards had been able to sell by Jan., 1764, when the last of
B. The mission of Juan Joseph Elixio de la Puente. Puente:
1. Was a former accountant and perhaps the wealthiest of the former
2. Returned to St. Augustine in May, 1764, empowered to act as agent
to sell the remaining properties.
3. Puente had difficulty finding buyers.
4. Finally, in July he transferred the remaining properties to a handful
of individuals, most of them to Jesse Fish. Fish:
a. Was the factor for the William Walton Co. of New York
b. Had lived many years in St. Augustine and was well known to the
c. Paid a nominal price for the properties, which he agreed to sell
for the original owners and to remit the receipts to them, minus
d. By 1765 controlled a lion's share of the property in St. Augustine,
including some church properties, and claimed vast tracts in the
1. Crown invalidated his claims to interior tracts
2. Crown took possession of church properties
3. Fish managed to hold on to most of the local houses and lots.
e. Sold most of the properties by 1778.
f. Apparently did reimburse some of the Spaniards for their property,
although often not until much later.
(There are no records clearly testifying to such payments.)
g. Fish's register of real estate transactions is an important source
for local site histories.
5. Fish did not acquire all the properties, however, a number of houses
and lots reverted to the Crown and were disposed of as grants to
IV. Indian Affairs
A. Few settlers came initially to British East Florida, an agreement with the
Indians was particularly important in securing the territory.
B. By 1764 the remnants of the North Florida aboriginal tribes had left with
the Spanish. Their places had been taken by Lower Creeks who had mi-
grated from what is now Alabama and Georgia. These groups eventually
became known as Seminoles.
C. British policy
1. Hoped to pacify the Indians with extensive territorial concessions
2. Sought to win the Indians' allegiance by lavish trade
D. Conference at Picolata--1765: Governor James Grant agreed to restrict
white settlement to the region east of the St. John's River, leaving the
interior to the Indians.
E. British traded heavily with Indians and supplied many gifts.
F. British policy kept the Indians loyal during the American Revolution
V. The. development of British East Florida
A. British East Florida resembled Spanish Florida in that
1. It functioned primarily as a military outpost
2. It was dependent upon a royal subsidy to pay the soldiers and officials,
to buy Indian presents, etc.
B. British East Florida was unlike Spanish Florida in that
1. Efforts were made to attract settlers
a. Publicity campaign to "sell" Florida
b. Grants of free land offered.
L Large tracts up to 20, 000 acres for those who would pay the
cost of settling families on it,
2. Smaller grants to individual families desiring to settle.
c. Settlement proceeded alowly, however.
1. Too much land available elsewhere in the colonies for there
to be much demand for Florida land.
2. Many grantees more interested in speculation than settlement.
3. Nevertheless, new residents did come, though not in the
2. Efforts were made to encourage productive enterprise.
a. Plantation economy developed
I. About 100 plantations established in the settled area east of St.
John's River and north of New Smyrna. All the governors--James
Grant, John Moultrie, and Patrick Tonyn--owned plantations.
2. Grew cash crops: indigo, rice, sugar, and oranges.
b. Forest products industry developed--lumber and naval stores
3. British East Florida was more productive than Spanish Florida,
but it remained a poor, underdeveloped colony. Its contribution to
Great Britain's whole North American trade was tiny.
VI. The New Smyrna colony--
A. Was an enterprise that was particularly significant for the later history of
B. Was the most ambitious effort to develop commercial agriculture in East
C. Was the fruit of a scheme by a group of influential partners, headed by
Dr. Andrew Turnbull, a Charleston physician, to produce Mediterranean
commercial products in Florida, such as rice, hemp, cotton, and indigo.
1. Believed the Greeks perfectly suited for growing such crops in
Florida. (He had married a Greek woman from Smyrna.)
2. Laid plans to settle 500 Greeks on two adjoining 20, 000 acre grants
south of St. Augustine near Mosquito (Ponce de Leon) Inlet.
D. Got under way in 1767, when Turnbull sailed for the Mediterranean to
recruit his colonists.
1. Assembled a number of Greeks, some from Greece and the Aegean
islands, others from Corsica.
2. Also picked up about 1.00 Italians from Livorno, Italy
3. Attracted several hundred Minorcans (Minorca then experiencing a
severe famine.) Majority of settlers were Minorcans.
E. All of the settlers came as indentured servants (contracted to work with-
out pay for a number of years in return for the cost of their passage and
a grant of land when their peri od of service was up.)
F. Colonists reached Florida in June, 1768. Settlement named New Smyrna
after the birthplace of Turnbull's vwife.
G. Colony experienced many difficulties
1. Too many settlers--supplies inadequate
2. Hostile environment not easily tamed
3. Tensions among the different groups of settlers
4. Harsh overseers, overwork, sickness, & hunger
5. Brief revolt--suppressed and ringleaders executed.
H. Despite hardships, the colony eventually produced profitable crops of
I. Demise of New Smyrna owed more to politics than to economics.
1. Turnbull was a prominent member of a faction agitating for an elected
representative assembly, a demand the governors resisted.
2. Turnbull lost the support of the government in St. Augustine.
J. Turnbull's efforts to prolong the settler's indentures led them to seek
relief from Governor Tonyn, a political enemy of Turnbull.
K. Tonyn released colonists from their contracts and invited them to move
to St. Augustine. The people moved there in the spring of 1777 and settled
in the north end of town on lots assigned them by the governor.
L. Descendants of the New Smyrna colonists remain an important part of
St. Augustine's population.
VII. The Loyalist influx
A. In 1775, rebellion broke out in several of the English colonies, and
thirteen of them declared their independence in 1776.
B. The Floridas did not join the rebellion
1. Were still primarily garrison colonies, dependent upon the mother
2. Were new colonies--had not developed a sense of identity.
3. Carried on very little trade, hence did not experience the commercial
resentments that were important elsewhere.
4. As frontier settlements, were wholly dependent upon English arms
C. East Florida did not become the scene of major fighting
D. East Florida served the Royal cause primarily as a haven for Loyalist
1. Were arriving in some numbers by 1778.
2. By far the biggest influx occurred in 1782 after British forces
abandoned Charleston and Savannah.
3. By 1783 over 13, 000 (whites and their slaves) were in East Florida,
most of them living in crude temporary housing in St. Augustine.
VIII. The End of the British Floridas
A. American Revolution cost Great Britain not only 13 of the northern colonies,
but the Floridas as well.
B. Spain joined France in declaring war on Great Britain in 1779.
Spanish forces captured West Florida.
C. War ended in defeat for Great Britain. Spain in position to make gains.
1. Kept Louisiana
2. Acquired the Floridas
D. Transfer of flags took place in St. Augustine (for East Florida)on
July 12, 1784.
E. Liquidation of British East Florida
1. Most British residents either
a. Left for other parts of the empire
b. Went to settle in United States territory
2. Some British residents stayed (evacuation not total).
3. New Smyrna colonists (Minorcans, Greeks, & Italians), for the
most part, stayed.
The Second Spanish Period
A. East Florida during the Second Spanish Period was only nominally Spanish.
1. Garrison and administration were Spanish or Spanish-colonial
2. Population was diverse
a. Some English residents remained and some returned later from
b. Minorcans, Italians, Greeks stayed in St. Augustine
c. Many refugee blacks (many of them escaped slaves from the
former English colonies) came to Florida.
d. Many land-hungry Americans came
e. A few of the Spanish residents of the First Spanish Period returned
f. Also bands of cutthroats, bandits, and undesirables of various
3. Spanish government was ineffectual
a. Spain militarily weak and overextended by
1. Wars with revolutionary France and, later with the Napoleonic
2. Revolutions against Spanish rule in the American colonies
b. Ultimately, Spain's inability to control lawless elements and to
prevent attacks by Florida Indians on American territory led to
II. Re-establishment of Spanish rule
A. Spain preserved aspects of the British regime
1. Continued the division of Florida into two provinces, East and West.
2. Continued British Indian policy
a. Agreed to recognize the white-Indian boundary established by
Grant in 1765
b. Continued British trade policy
1. Since Spanish resources insufficient for heavy Indian trade,
allowed British firm of Panton, Leslie, & Co. to keep its
monopoly of the Indian trade in the Floridas.
2. Attempted to win the Indians' loyalty--to keep them from going
over to the Americans. (Policy, on the whole, was successful.)
3. In most respects there was more diversity in the Second Spanish
Period than in the First.
B. Efforts to populate East Florida
1. When Great Britain ceded East Florida in 1784 the population dropped
"from about 17, 000 (including many refugees) to about 1. 700, most of
them soldiers in the garrison and the Minorcan, Italian, and Greek
2. British subjects allowed to stay and keep property if they would take
an oath of allegiance to Spain. Most left, but some stayed.
3. Efforts to attract Irish Catholic settlers were unfruitful.
4. Immigration liberalized in 1788.
a. Govt. gave grants of free land to outsiders, even non-Catholics.
Most came from U.S.
b. From 1787 to 1804 population increased to about 4, 500, most of
increase consisting of American settlers and their slaves.
c. In the long run, this policy worked against Spanish interests.
1. New settlers unlikely to remain loyal to Spain
2. New settlers frustrated by Spanish prohibition of
a. Public Protestant worship (private worship was tolerated)
b. Local self-government and elections
c. Land speculation
5. Spanish officially closed East Florida to U.S. citizens in 1804.
a. The ban proved ineffective
b. East Florida's population thus became predominantly American.
Many of these Americans later plotted to overthrow the Spanish
regime and to seek annexation to the U. S.
III. Economy of Spanish East Florida
A. Floridas were still primarily military colonies; St. Augustine still
principally a garrison town. (Spain regarded the Floridas and Louisiana
as buffers against American expansion toward New Spain and the Spanish
B. Spanish authorities would have liked for East Florida to trade only with
the Spanish empire, but she had become dependent on other sources--
principally the U. S. (For example: in 1806 of 42 ships calling at St.
Augustine, 5 were from Havana and 37 from U. S. ports.)
C. Colony suffered from a shortage of money. Payments to the garrison were
D. But Second Spanish Period did exhibit a more diverse economy than the
1. Plantation economy survived--produced cattle, cotton, rice, and
sugarcane by means of slave labor.
2. Production of naval stores continued on a small scale.
3. Town of Fernandina on Amelia Island became center of smuggling
(into the U. S.)
E. Yet East Florida was by no means prosperous. Remained a rough, unruly,
and sparsely settled frontier region.
IV. Factors leading to American acquisition of the Floridas.
A. Floridas isolated by U.S. territory after
1. Spain returned Louisiana to France in 1800.
2. France sold Louisiana to the U.S. in 1803.
B. Influx of American settlers, many of whom schemed for an American
C. Spain's inability to govern Florida effectively
1. Fernandina a paradise for smugglers
2. Floridas were full of bandits and lawless elements who often raided
U. S. territory. Spanish administration too weak to control them.
3. British agents incited Florida Indians to attack U.S. settlements.
Indians used Floridas as sanctuaries.
D. Spain's inability to keep order in the Floridas led to increasing
American demands for a U. S. takeover.
E. Adams-Onis Treaty (signed 1819, ratified 1821) transferred Florida
to the U.S.
1. U. S. government agreed to assume Spanish debts to American
citizens totaling about five million dollars.
2. Change of flags in East Florida took place in St. Augustine on
July 10, 1821.
Overton G. Ganong