The Floridians Index|
The two Floridas were Royal colonies governed by an appointed governor with a lieutenant governor and a chief justice as primary staff members. The Crown also selected a council to serve as the colony's upper house while British leaders promised that an elected lower house would be chosen once the colonies developed a population.
Both colonies started as marginal endeavors, and like the previous Spanish governors, Florida's officials were obliged to save money from the contingency fund to keep public services operating. The English, however, had one major advantage over the Spanish: the ability to recruit permanent settlers, particularly families to the New World. The British Parliament cooperated by setting a goal of channeling migration away from the Indian lands west of the Appalachians to newly acquired Florida. The Proclamation of 1763 outlawed settlement west of the Appalachians while promoting Florida as a new area of British colonization..
Unlike agrarian Spain, England had strong desire to develop Florida trade. The London Board of Trade advertised 20,000 acre lots to any group willing to enter Florida. The land, however, had to be settled within ten years with one resident per 100 acres. While the Privy Council in London granted land titles, pioneer families could gain land grants at the two colonial capitals. Former British soldiers were eligible for special grants. Each pioneer settler was given 100 acres of land and 50 acres per family member. To recruit Southerners, slavery was allowed.
The wars with France had nearly bankrupted the government.
The British Governors had to keep its staff
at a minimum: a secretary, an attorney general, a surveyor, a registrar
of titles, a trade agency, an Anglican clergyman, and two school teachers
made up the payroll. Careful use of the contingency fund might allow for
the additional recruitment of a coroner, a jailer, a clerk of court, and
Indian agents. Any new requests took six months to gain approval from London.
Each Florida was given a single regiment of professional soldiers, good
protection for the town folk, but these men were also hired to guard the
massive frontier from Indian attacks and the coast from pirate invasions. The Governor
had to summon the entire male population into a state militia to assure
security. Since most settlers came from England, Florida, like Virginia, made
the Church of England (Anglican) the official state religion.
Grant's ability to recruit was reflected on the growth of the two colonies. East Florida granted 2,856,000 acres to West Florida's meager 380,000 acres. Those who entered East Florida were predominately Europeans or Southern planters who regarded the region an extensive of the Atlantic coastal plain. West Florida had to rely on pioneer settlers from sparsely populated Alabama and western Georgia.
It was hoped that individual families who enter the region without the
dependence of grants from London. Of 114 grants issued in 1776, only 16
families actually settled in Florida. More came to Florida by flatboat,
settled a riverside homestead, and never reported to the British authorities.
One of his first recruits was DENYS ROLLE,
a Londoner inspired by James Oglethorpe's success in Georgia bringing debtors
into that colony. Rolle brought in a collection of poor, unemployed, and
petty criminal settlers to a large plantation on the St. John's River.
Rollestown was an agricultural flop. Unlike Oglethorpe's hand-picked
farming colonists, Rolle discovered his urban workers could not adjust to the hard
labor and inhospitable conditions of an isolated village miles in a harsh
A more original program of colonization was developed by Grant's friend and world traveler DR. ANDREW TURNBULL. Turnbull suggested that Florida would be an ideal spot for impoverished Greek, Italian, and Minorcan peasants Turnbull had seen in his Mediterranean travels. Certainly the climate of Florida would be more suitable to them than Rolle's Englishmen.
With this incredulous dream and a land grant of 60,000 acres, Turnbull sailed to the southern coast of Turkey where Greek farmers, once the envoys of ancient Greek civilization, lived under Turkish rule. He convinced many Greeks that Florida offered religious freedom and greater success in sugar production.
On the return voyage, Turnbull recruited many Italians and Minorcans, and arrived in St. Augustine with ships filled with 900 settlers. Governor Grant had hardly anticipated so many new arrivals and realized Turnbull's "New Smyrna Colony", located down the deserted Atlantic coast did not have enough food and shelter.
The Turnbull colony was in trouble from the start. The English population
considered the Catholic Minorcans and Italians to be potential allies of
the Spanish in Cuba. Even more unfortunate, the three cultural groups began
to fight among themselves. Used to a mountainous climate, the Greeks and
Italians suffered in the hot Florida humidity. None of them had grown sugar
nor was Turnbull had effective businessman. He treated his indentured population
like slaves. The Minorcans fled to St. Augustine and others demanded to
return to their homeland. Dr. Turnbull's dream had collapsed.
West Florida was larger than East Florida and extended to Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana, but its leaders like George Johnstone had serious problems with the increasing migration of Indians into the region. Farmers and lumbermen would endanger the profitable fur trade with the Indians.
The Spanish honored these land exchanges, but when the United States
finally gained Florida in 1821, the U.S. Congress denounced the Forbes
Purchase. John Forbes recruited some American investors and contested his
land rights in the American courts. It was not until 1835 that the courts
yielded the land to Forbes and the American-based Apalachicola Land Company.
most of the property was marshland unfit for
British town life may have lacked some of the urban zest of a Spanish military garrison, but it had families and some thirty trading ships per year. Tropical goods and lumber were sent to South Carolina; indigo dye and naval products to New York. The work force was still quite limited, but there was general optimism that British East Florida would soon develop ties to the Enghlish colonies to the North. The British also brought in a larger African-American slave populace for the plantations.
Pensacola and West Florida, with its sandy, coastal soils and heavy
forests, lagged behind in development. The region produced no staple, money
crops except lumber and furs. The pioneer homesteaders who entered the
area survived on crops of corn, beans, cotton, tobacco, and rice. There
were only a few plantations since the fertile Tallahassee Hills were considered
less secure from Indian attack for the frontier farmer.
Floridians hoped the conflict would never reach Florida's shores, but England had decided to utilize Florida as a staging area for British troops assigned to the South. Florida's warm climate would accustom British forces to the American heat and Florida could develop supplies for the British military. The huge fort at St. Augustine was even turned into a prison camp.
The harsh and conservative Loyalist Patrick Tonyn had replaced the retiring Grant as Governor of East Florida and his heavy tactics upset non-English immigrants. Tonyn did muster colonists into the East Florida Rangers, a militia that successfully halted American raids over the St. Mary's River.
In British West Florida, there was general disorder. Indians fled into Pensacola and GovernorGeorge Johnstone was recalled for disrupting military activities. In 1781 a Spanish fleet under Bernardo de Galvez sailed into Pensacola Harbor from New Orleans and bombarded the city. His mission was limited, but it terrified the small community.
The British occupation of Savannah and Charleston placated much of the fear in British Florida until the stunning defeat of Cornwallis at Yorktown. The Revolution was over. The revolting colonies had won even if there was only a truce. Loyalists poured into St. Augustine from across the south. They would have made the city an economic boom town, but nearly all of them were headed to the Bahamas, Bermuda, or England.
It was not until the Treaty of Paris in 1783, that Floridians discovered
their fate. To the shock of most Floridians, Florida was not going to be part
of the United States. Southerners were even more shocked that their delegate in Paris had
missed the ruling on Florida. With that news, most of the English in St.
Augustine became to pack for England or the British Caribbean, leaving the Catholic Minorcans in a deserted
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