Territorial florida

On March 10, 1821, President James Monroe appointed General Andrew Jackson to take possession of Florida and gave him the full powers of governor. Jackson accepted the office only on the condition that he could resign as soon as the territorial government was organized.(1) On July 17, 1821, Spain transferred Florida to the United States, and Jackson sent his resignation to the president in November. In all, Andrew Jackson visited Florida only three times: in 1814 during the War of 1812, in 1818 during the First Seminole War, and in 1821 to organize the first territorial government.(2)
The change from Spanish to American rule was not a smooth transition. The Spanish population quickly realized the unruly settlers who visited their homes and establishments had neither the money nor inclination to purchase their property at fair market value. The volatile Mayor of St. Augustine Juan Entralgo refused to cooperate with Jackson, and when the Spanish Governor Don Jose Callava protested Jackson’s policies, Jackson threw him in jail.(1) Few Spaniards elected to remain under American rule. Many elected to strip their homes of anything useful and burnt the foundations so the Americans were left with ruins. The new Territory of Florida was second only to Georgia in land area east of the Mississippi River. This huge size, coupled with the state’s under populated peninsular, posed serious problems to the state’s future development. Northern Congressmen feared that Florida would be divided into two slave states, thus disrupting the delicate balance of having equal slave and free states in the United States Senate.(3) Jackson felt there were more obvious problems: a lack of population, the absence of decent roads and physical resources, and the presence of hostile Seminole Indians.(1)
Territorial Florida had a simple governmental structure. The Governor, a three-year appointee of the President, had to operate with a minimum of Federal funding. The Territorial Council, elected by the people, could only borrow money, issue licenses, and organize a state militia. As the population grew, the legislature began to charter counties with appointed commissioners to handle local civil and criminal cases. It was essential to resolve the territory’s financial indebtedness so that Florida could construct the transportation and economic ties to the rest of the South. The only forms of state revenue were taxes on land sales, license fees, and poll taxes. Two political groups soon developed out of this struggle to finance Florida’s development. The Jacksonian Democrats, benefiting from their location in Middle Florida at the center of the plantation and political, often joined the Whig Party. Florida’s Whigs supported increased spending on railroads and state banks, which they deemed essential to the maturation of the Florida economy. East Florida, dominated by small farmers, disliked the willingness of the Whigs to spend public funds on such economic projects.The anti-Call forces were led by twomen from St. Augustine, lawyer Robert Raymond Reid and sugar planter David Yulee Levy. They organized a ferocious attack on Call when the Pensacola Bank, which Call endorsed, collapsed, harming many small West Florida farmers. These Democrats gained the support of frontiersmen with their opposition to the planter aristocracy and appeal to less taxes. The election of David Yule Levy, a European Jew, in a traditionalist Protestant was an indication of the acceptance of the anti-Call platform. Despite their belief in less spending, both Levy and Reid were firm supporters of Florida statehood.(1)
By 1840, Florida had taken its place as a member of the Old South. Its leading citizens, many of neighboring Georgia and Alabama, had formed economic and political ties to all the institutions of Southern society. Florida was an agrarian society and this predominance of agriculture, with its definable class and caste, would leave an notable mark on Florida history. The plantation leaders led Florida in wealth and political power. There remained in most counties only the urban professionals to challenge this plantation elite and many of them were firmly entrenched in the cotton culture. The townsfolk represented a middle strata of shopkeepers, merchants, artisans, and builders. The small farmer and the stock tender represented the lower economic groups, while the black freedmen and the slave held the least status and power.
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