Most Floridians are aware that Florida was under Spanish law and rule for 300 years, give or take, and 1763-1783 when it was held by Great Britain.
The original two Spanish colonies of Escambia and St. Johns later became known as West Florida and East Florida, with capitals at Pensacola and St. Augustine.
The path from Spanish rule to British rule to Spanish rule to U.S. Territorial control and statehood had a few bumps in the road.
Long before the Adams-Onis Florida Purchase Treaty of Feb. 22, 1819, ceded Florida from Spain to the young U.S., there was revolution, rebellion, invasion, Creeks and Seminoles.
Long before the Florida’s modern reputation of beaches, spring breakers, hanging chads and locked elections, Florida was already earning its reputation as an interesting spot on the map.
Spain’s interest in Florida began in 1513, seeing it as the northern bastion of the Gulf of Mexico and possible guardian of the gold and silver treasure fleets of New Spain and Peru.
Britain won its 20 years of mosquito swatting and installation of slave-worked plantations in 1763, then traded it back to Spain in the treaties of 1783 ending the War of American Independence.
For a look at the Irish, Scots, Creek and Loyalists of that time in West Florida, see “Independence Lost: Lives on the edge of the American Revolution” by Kathleen DuVal. Or “The Rogue Republic: How would-be patriots waged the shortest revolution in American History” by William C. Davis.
Some good general histories of Florida from these early days to modern air conditioning include the classic “A History of Florida” by Charlton Tebeau and three by Michael Gannon: “Florida: a short history,” “The New History of Florida” and “History of Florida in 40 minutes.” Also, “La Florida: 500 years of Hispanic Presence” edited by Virginia Diaz Balsena and Rachael A. May.
With the return of “The Floridas” to Spain, the fun begins. During the British period, Anglo-Americans had moved south into West Florida, near Louisiana and the Creek Nation.
A good read is “The Plot to Steal Florida: James Madison’s Phony War” by Joseph Burkholder Smith, covering the U.S. covert work in 1811 to cause a popular uprising against Spanish rule by those “American” settlers.
This caused pressure around the edges, and Creeks and Seminoles were disturbed. For the full — and complex — story of the tribes against the slavers and Andrew Jackson’s forces from 1812 to the invasion of 1817-1818, try “Florida’s Seminole Wars, 1817-1858” by Joe Knetsch, (the e-book is available on Hoopla).
The Adams-Onis Treaty negotiations began in 1815 when Don Luis de Onis came to Washington. The final Florida Treaty of 1819, called the Florida Purchase Treaty and The Transcontinental Treaty, defined the boundary between the U.S. and New Spain.
The Central Library has many more books are available, both in English and Spanish, on the Creeks, Seminoles, Spanish Florida, Jackson, Pensacola and Jacksonville and the early Territory of Florida.
Call your local branch for more information on available titles.
▪ Central Library — 941-748-5555;
▪ Braden River — 941-727-6079;
▪ Island — 941-778-6341;
▪ Palmetto — 941-722-3333;
▪ Rocky Bluff — 941-723-4821;
▪ South Manatee — 941-755-3892.
You also can access the library via the internet at mymanatee.org/library.
Pam Gibson is a librarian at the Central Library in downtown Bradenton. Speaking Volumes, written by Manatee County Public Library System staff members, is published each Sunday in the Bradenton Herald.