British Reconnaissance

The Peace of 1763 ended the French and Indian War, with Britain victorious and France and her ally, Spain, the losers. In return for Havana, which the British had captured in 1762, Spain ceded Florida to Great Britain. The British divided the ceded colony into two provinces, East and West. In talks with Florida Creeks, British authorities promised to restrict white settlement in East Florida to the area south of the St. Mary’s, east of the St. John’s, and north of New Smyrna, thus extending the Proclamation Line of 1763 that attempted to protect the tribes from  British settlers’ unfettered expansion into their territory. Hardly had the cession of Florida been completed when the British began to make plans for its development. Promoters rushed into print and speculators grew giddy, but the reconnaissance of the newly acquired territory was very thorough.  


48. Archibald Menzies. Proposal for peopling his Majesty’s southern colonies on the continent of America.  Magerny Castle, Perthshire, Scotland, 23 October, 1763.
Archibald Menzies proposed that Florida be settled by colonies of Greeks, Armenians, and Minorcans, who would be able to adapt to the climate. Their traditional knowledge of grape and olive cultivation would be supplemented by growing cotton and manufacturing silk, all spelling immense hoped-for profit.  This proposal came to nothing, but several years later Dr. Andrew Turnbull, a fellow Scot, brought a group of Mediterranean laborers to his indigo plantation, New Smyrna, where mismanagement cost many lives.


49. William Stork. An account of East-Florida with remarks on its future importance to trade and commerce.  London, [1766]. 

William Stork’s argument for settlement in Florida focused on the weather. The cooler, more temperate parts of North America might be pleasanter to live in, but they were unable to produce luxury products, such as sugar, in demand in European markets.

We shall see this illustrated, by comparing the commerce of the two small islands of St. Christopher, and Rhode-Island, both of them well settled, and well cultivated; both fertile, and almost of the same size; the principal difference betwixt them consisting in this, that the former is situated in lat. 17. and the latter in 41. Let an estimate be made of the annual exports of each; by comparing them together we discover at once the difference that is made by climate only: the exports of the former are of great value, and of the latter very little.


50.“Observations of Denys Rolle.” In:  William Stork. An extract from the account of East Florida published by Dr. Stork, who resided a considerable time in Augustine.  London, 1766. 

Both William Stork and Archibald Menzies advocated settlements of white Protestants who would labor to produce luxury goods. Denys Rolle attempted three separate settlements using white labor, one of the few would-be planters to do so. But with each attempt he was less successful in attracting white immigrants, until his final settlement was completely based on slave labor.


51. Thomas Jefferys, “Map of East Florida.” In: Dr. William Stork. A description of East Florida with a journal kept by John Bartram. London, 1769.

John Bartram, a native of Philadelphia, was appointed “Botanist to his Majesty for both the Floridas.” In 1765, on a journey from St. Augustine to search for the headwaters of the St. Johns River he kept a journal recording the nature of the countryside and the “useful” plants he identified along the way.  Stork’s hope in publicizing Bartram’s observations was to encourage experimentation in the importation of exotic, high-value crops that might flourish in Florida. The map by Thomas Jefferys shows “Rollestown,” founded by Denys Rolle in 1764.


52. Pedro Diaz. "Mapa topografico de la Florida." Manuscript. 1769.

This Spanish manuscript map is a bit of a puzzle. Was it part of the “tool kit” for a hoped-for re-possession of Florida sometime in the future? On first glance it appears to be crowded with information about the nature of the Florida interior, Indian villages, etc., but closer examination, and comparison with the contemporary maps shown in this case, suggest that the Spanish cartographer drawing this map in Havana was geographically very much out of touch with British geographical knowledge of Florida in 1769. 

53. “A map of the American Indian nations.”  In: James Adair. The history of the American Indians, particularly those nations adjoining to the Mississippi, East and West Florida. London, 1775.  

From 1735 to 1769 James Adair was an Indian trader in the Southeast. His History of the American Indians was based on the thesis that Native Americans were descended from the Jews. In his thirty years of close observation of Native customs and languages, Adair amassed such a wealth of knowledge that his book is considered a basic source of information. But the book is also promotional literature, calling for British settlement east of the Mississippi, behind the coastal colonies of the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida.


54. Bernard Romans. Proposals for printing by subscription, three very elegant and large maps of the navigation, to, and in the new ceded colonies.  Philadelphia, August 5, 1773. 


55. Bernard Romans. Concise natural history of East and West Florida.  New York, 1775.
Bernard Romans was a Dutch-born American navigator, surveyor, cartographer, naturalist, engineer, soldier, promoter and writer. In 1768, he was appointed principal deputy surveyor for the Southern District, which included the British colonies from Virginia to Florida.  Starting in 1769, Romans surveyed the coastal waters of East Florida, reaching Pensacola, West Florida, in August 1771. His best known work, A concise natural history of East and West Florida, published in 1775, is a valuable source of information about the Floridas during the period of British control. His maps and charts are considered better than any produced before, and often for many years after, their publication. Romans had originally conceived of his book as a guide to mariners, and one-quarter of his subscribers were involved in shipping. But he was also receiving questions from people who were interested in moving to the Floridas, and Romans expanded his book to accommodate them as well.


Florida Restored to Spain

Spain entered the American Revolution in 1779 as an ally of France against Great Britain, with the goal of restoring losses they had suffered in the Peace of 1763 on the losing side of the Seven Years War. The governor of Spanish Louisiana, Count Bernardo de Gálvez, led a series of successful offensives against the British forts in the Mississippi valley, then turned his attention to Pensacola, capital of British West Florida. Gálvez's forces achieved a decisive victory against the British in 1781 at the Battle of Pensacola, which gave the Spanish control of West Florida once again and ensured the return of Florida to Spain in the Peace of 1783.

56. “Dom. Serres. A north view of Pensacola on the island of Santa Rosa.” In: William Roberts. An account of the first discovery, and natural history of Florida. London, 1763. 


57. “Plan of the fort at Pensacola in West Florida 1764.”  In: [French and Indian War field diary.  1756-1765]. Manuscript.

The writer of this field journal was stationed at Pensacola for a time before returning home to Britain at the end of the French and Indian War. Under the key to the diagram he notes that “the houses, except the governor’s & one or two more, are made with bark of trees.”


58. Francisco Rojas y Rocha.  Poema epico, la rendicion de Panzacola y conquista de la Florida Occidental por el exmô. Señor Conde de Galvez.  Mexico City, 1785.
It was in the operation against Pensacola that Gálvez acquired his motto, “Yo solo,” by taking his ship past the British batteries when all others had refused to make the attack. His story is celebrated in this “epic poem” by Francisco Rojas.


59. The case of the inhabitants of East Florida with an appendix containing papers by which all the facts stated in the case are supported.  St. Augustine: John Wells, 1784.
During the American Revolution, British East and West Florida had become a haven for Loyalists. Here, distressed Loyalists ask compensation for the lands they were compelled to give up by the re-cession of Florida to Spain in 1783. John Wells, the printer of this piece, was a Loyalist who abandoned his Charleston, South Carolina, printing office in 1782 when American forces occupied the town. He fled to St. Augustine where he set up another printing office and published the earliest Florida newspaper, the Florida Gazette, in 1783/1784. In 1784 he pulled up stakes again and moved to Nassau, Bahamas, where he published the Bahamas Gazette.


Epilogue, post 1783

Although Spain was nominally sovereign in the Floridas from 1784 to 1821, Americans treated the area as an extension of their own backcountry and moved across the borders in increasing numbers, encouraged by Spanish offers of free land and access to the Mississippi River. The Indian nations of the Southeast, important trading partners in the past, now offered an obstacle to settlement.

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Exhibition may be seen in THE Reading Room from january through
april 2013.

Exhibition prepared by Amy Turner Bushnell, Independent Research Scholar, and Susan Danforth, Curator of Maps, John Carter Brown Library.