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The Nation Expands

Florida, 1819

Although Spain, France, and Britain all held Florida (or parts of Florida) prior to the American Revolution, by the end of the war, it was Spanish territory. However, the location of the border between the United States and Spanish territory remained an issue of dispute between the two countries.

The American acquisition of Florida actually occurred in small steps. Americans had long settled in the territory, and throughout the early years of the 19th century American settlers in Florida periodically rebelled against Spanish authorities, sometimes with the support of American officials. Moreover, the use of the region as a safe haven for runaway slaves, as well as ongoing Native American hostilities, also gave American authorities "justifications" for contesting Spanish sovereignty in Florida.

In 1814 and then again in 1817-1818, future American president Andrew Jackson led frontier forces in defeating and removing various Native American tribes indigenous to the region, even as Spain retained official control there. At this point, the United States and Spain had to either fight or negotiate over which country would retain possession of Florida. At the time, Spain was dealing with serious problems with its other colonies. Thus, neither side wanted war, and in 1819, the two countries signed the Adam-Onís Treaty. The treaty, named after Secretary of State John Quincy Adams and Spanish minister Louis de Onís, ceded Florida to the United States. In exchange, the United States agreed to pay up to $5 million in damages to Americans who had claims against Spain and to forfeit any claims to Texas.

Map of Florida
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