History of the plantations

Since it was discovered by the Spanish and became a colony, Florida was caught in the struggles of the European nations to control and profit from their North American colonies.

During the First Spanish Period, Florida was a vast territory that extended to the Mississippi River. The Spanish were the first to explore and claim it. Legend has it that Ponce de Leon named it La Florida. At the time of the European discovery, all of Florida was occupied by native cultures. By the early 1700s, these original cultures were gone. European diseases and the struggles for power in Florida had destroyed them. The Spanish encouraged the southward movement of Creek Indians into Florida to re-populate the territory. The Spanish needed Indian tribes to ally with them against other European powers. The descendents of these Indians became known as the Seminoles and Miccosukees.

The British Period began in 1763 when England received Florida as its territory through the terms of the Treaty of Paris, which formally ended the French and Indian War. The British opposed Spain for its support of France and captured Havana, the capital of the Spanish Colonial Empire. In exchange for Havana and Cuba, Britain acquired Florida. The British divided Florida into East Florida - the 14th colony - with St. Augustine as its capitol, and West Florida - its 15th colony with Pensacola as a capitol.

With the encouragement of British land grants, the plantation economy of East Florida began to flourish. For 20 years Britain controlled Florida only to lose it as a result of the American Revolution. Spain again acquired Florida because of its support of the American revolutionaries.

The Second Spanish Period lasted from 1783 to 1821. Planters from the West Indies and the U.S. moved into the territory. At first British planters left Florida, they returned when the Spanish lifted their requirement of conversion to Catholicism which had driven many away. As an enticement, the Spanish also offered large land grants to resurrect the plantation economy. Spanish rule of Florida was considered a threat to southern planters and U.S. expansionists. In 1821, Spain ceded Florida to the United States, after Andrew Jackson pushed to the South and seized control of the Spanish borderlands.

During the Territorial period, the plantation system entered the Industrial Revolution with the application of steam power to sugar and rum processing. The flourishing plantation economy of East Florida ended abruptly when the Seminoles burned and destroyed the plantations and sugar mills during the Second Seminole Indian War.

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