Atlantic Rivalry: Carolina

Throughout the seventeenth century, English settlers in Virginia and the Carolinas gradually pushed the boundaries of Spanish Florida south, while at the same time French settlements along the Mississippi River encroached on the western borders.  In 1670, England challenged Spain once again by planting the Province of Carolina on the Atlantic coast halfway between Virginia and Florida.  The Spanish in St. Augustine believed (correctly, as it turned out) that Charles Town (Charleston, S.C.) harbored pirates and that the English were encouraging slave raids into Florida by supplying their Indian allies with firearms and purchasing their captives.  The Carolina governors denied these charges, but Jonathan Dickinson’s account (no. 35) shows that his party, was shipwrecked 90 miles north of present-day Miami in 1696.


36. “Proposals made to all such persons as shall undertake to become the first settlers.” In: William Hilton.  A relation of a discovery recently made on the coast of Florida. London, 1664.
This tract addressed Englishmen willing to settle the lands south of Charleston, South Carolina. 




37. Plan pour former un etablissement en Caroline.  La Haye, 1686.

French Protestants were again encouraged to settle along the same coast where their countrymen had been massacred by the Spanish under Menéndez a century before.



38. “A new description of Carolina.”  In:  [Samuel Wilson].  Account of the province of Carolina in America. London, 1682.

The expansive, English concept of Carolina extended all the way to St. Augustine.


FLorida, Britain, and France

The following three maps show some of the varied ways that Florida figured in the cartographic conversation between France and Britain. These were the primary competitors for North American real estate until the Peace of 1763 handed most of the continent to the victor, Great Britain. The cartographic record shown here presents Spain as a relatively passive actor on the international stage—the shifting boundaries of Florida seem to have little to do with Spain’s own view of its territory but everything to do with how France and England viewed Florida in relation to their own territorial ambitions.


Nicolas Sanson. Le Nouveau Mexique, et la Floride. Paris, 1656.

Sanson’s mid-seventeenth century French map shows a large Spanish Florida and a strong French presence in North America labeled “Canada ou Nouvelle France.” In the space usually occupied by English Carolina, “Floride François,” signals a French claim based on the unsuccessful colonizing efforts of French Huguenots in the 1560s.


Philip Lea. A new map of America … wherein are described by thear proper names the severall countries that belong to ye English which are wholly left out in all French and Dutch maps. London, [1687].

This English map displays a large Spanish Florida, but shows no French claims in North America except for a strip of land along the St. Lawrence River.


Henry Popple. A map of the British Empire in America with the French and Spanish settlemts adjacent thereto. [London, 1733].

Here, the British extend their claims well south of Spanish St. Augustine, and westward to the Pacific.  France is left with only its possessions in the far north, and a slice of the Gulf coast, which would become British West Florida after the Peace of 1763.

Queen Anne’s War, 1702-1713

Spain’s policy in the closing years of the seventeenth and the early years of the eighteenth century was to hold on to what it possessed in the face of French and English challenges.  Spanish Florida and the English province of Carolina were each subjected to attacks from the other, while the English engaged the French based at Mobile in what was essentially a “proxy war” fought by allied Indians on both sides. The southern war did not result in significant territorial changes, but it nearly wiped out the Indian population of Spanish Florida and effectively destroyed Spain's mission network in the area.


39. Primera, y breve relacion de las favorable noticias que … se han tenido por cartas de don Luis de Zuñiga, governador de la Florida.  Madrid, 1703.  
In 1702, Colonel James Moore of Carolina and his Indian allies attacked the town of St. Augustine, but was unable to gain control of the fort. In 1704, Moore returned, this time burning missions in northwestern Florida and enslaving Indians loyal to the Spanish Crown. The collapse of the Spanish mission system and the defeat of the Spanish-allied Indians opened the lower half of Florida to slave raids (see Moll map below which shows the paths of the Carolina raiders into Florida), which reached to the Florida Keys and decimated the native population. Shown here is a Spanish report on Moore’s first, less-than-successful, expedition against St. Augustine in 1702.


Hermann Moll.  A new map of the north parts of America claimed by France under ye names of Louisiana, Mississipi[sic], Canada and New France with ye adjoining territories of England & Spain. [London], 1720.

This map by the English cartographer Hermann Moll was created for a different purpose than the navigational chart by Lieutenant Matos.  Moll has a great deal to say as he speculates on possible alterations to the current territorial status quo among England, France, and Spain in North America.  

  • The green arrows on the map point out the natural wealth to be found in French Louisiana
  • The yellow arrows make territorial claims that would extend British territory well into what was traditionally viewed as Spanish Florida 
  • The orange arrows note the route of the Spanish treasure fleet as it comes temptingly close to the Florida coast, well within reach of the English (especially if their colonial limits extend further into the Spanish-controlled areas south of St. Augustine)
  • The blue arrow locates the proposed buffer colony of Azilia that will protect English coastal settlements from the Spanish in Florida and the French to the west
  • The red arrows mark the paths of the Carolina raiders’ incursions into Spanish Florida and point to the Explanation

Gulf Rivalry: Louisiana and Pensacola

By the late seventeenth century, word reached the Spanish in Florida and the English along the southeast coast that exploring parties of Frenchmen were ranging far and wide to the west in search of the mouth of the Mississippi River. In April, 1682, the Sieur de la Salle reached the Gulf by way of the Mississippi, claimed the entire Mississippi Valley for France, and named it Louisiana. See the map by Randin de Buily below. Both France and Spain raced to establish a military presence on the Gulf to protect their interests, while the Spanish in Mexico sent a surveying party to Pensacola Bay to assess its defensibility. 


Hugues Antoine Randin de Buily. Carte de l’Amerique Septentrionale depuis l’embouchûre de la Riviere St. Laurens jusques au Sein Mexique.  Manuscript.  [between 1674 and 1681].

This map of North America drawn by Randin de Buily, Frontenac’s engineer from 1672 to 1682, presents a strange delineation of the Atlantic coastline of North America outside the areas of direct French interest and control—the St. Lawrence region, the Gulf coast, and the course of the Mississippi River.  The absence of political boundaries on the map appears to suggest that the “empty” area east of the Mississippi was land free for the taking and not formally possessed by any European power.  Considering the linkage of French interests in the north with the Gulf of Mexico via the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, it is plain to see why English colonists predicted that they would soon be encircled by the French. It is also plain to see the role that the Florida peninsula could play in France’s vision of North American empire.


40. Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora. Descripcion, que de la Vaia de Santa Maria de Galve (antes Pansacola) de la Movila.  [Mexico, 1693?]. 

The heightened interest in Florida security brought about by French presence on the Lower Mississippi is reflected in this printed report and commentary by Sigüenza y Góngora, the engineer of a naval expedition from New Spain to the bay of Pensacola in 1693. Born in Mexico City in 1645, Sigüenza was one of the first great creole intellectuals and held numerous respected academic and government positions in the Viceroyalty of New Spain. 


41.  [The situation of the Spanish presidio at Pensacola].  Manuscript.  May 27, 1744.

In 1719, the French captured the Spanish settlement at Pensacola, retaining episodic control until 1722, when it was finally returned to Spain. This anonymous official document, perhaps written by the governor of the presidio, attests to the precarious position of the Spaniards in the Bay of Pensacola and the difficulties arising from the close proximity of the French and English. The writer gives a brief account of events since Juan Jordan de Reyna took possession of Pensacola Bay in 1696, describes increasing French settlements along the Mississippi, and ends with a discussion of the pros and cons of maintaining the presidio into the future. 


Wars, Schemes, and Designs

Azilia, Carolana, and Georgia

The years following Queen Anne’s War were marked by reckless English speculation, monopolies, and colonizing schemes that came to nothing. Information about places in the Southeast where one could score quick riches changed hands as rapidly as stocks. Indian survivors of the Yamassee War (1715–1717), a conflict between South Carolina settlers and various Native American tribes, poured into Florida, raising Spanish hopes that the balance of power in the Southeast might shift their way. The new British colony of Georgia, planted in the “debatable land” between Carolina and Florida, made that a doubtful outcome.


42. “A plan representing the form of settling[sic] the … Margravate of Azilia.”  In: Sir Robert Montgomery. A discourse concerning the design’d establishment of a new colony to the south of Carolina.  London, 1717. 

About the year 1717 certain development schemes were designed to bring the English closer than ever to the northern Florida border. The Proprietors of South Carolina, feeling themselves land-poor and anxious to set up a buffer colony between themselves and the French to the west and the Spanish in Florida, transferred a large tract in the contested territory between the Savannah and Altamaha Rivers, naming it “The Margravate of Azilia.” These plans came to nothing, but the idea resonated and was picked up by the cartographer Hermann Moll, whose maps graphically demonstrated British expansionist hopes.


43. “A Map of Carolana and of the River Meschacebe.” In: Daniel Coxe. A description of the English province of Carolana, by the Spanish call’d Florida, and by the French La Louisiane. London, 1722. 

In 1698, English physician Daniel Coxe acquired title to a vast tract of land in the southeast, encompassing pretty much everything from Florida to the Mississippi River, as shown on this map. The expedition that Coxe sent out to plant the proposed colony of Carolana turned back when they were informed by the French on the Mississippi that the region had already been claimed by France. But Coxe and his descendants did not give up trying to attract settlers to Carolana until 1769, when they traded the vague, contested tract for a piece of farmland in the Mohawk Valley in what is now New York State.


The War of Jenkins’ Ear (War of Austrian Succession, 1739-1748)

During the Bourbon reforms of the eighteenth century, which saw the monarchies of Spain and France more closely allied through family connections, Spain’s armed forces in America grew larger, more effective, and much more expensive, and the Spanish coast guard declared a war on British contraband. See Antonio de Matos's map below. As the story goes, British sea captain Richard Jenkins had his ear severed by the captain of a Spanish patrol boat who had captured him in the course of a smuggling operation. Jenkins brought his ear to London, where it became a focal point for fiery anti-Spanish debate and calls for military action.


The Maritime Presidio:  Guarding the Gulf Stream

Spain’s campaigns to control strategic seaways and dominate coastal Indians resulted in the naval base of St. Augustine, with links to New Spain and the Caribbean. Founded by soldiers detached from an armada, commanded like an armada by a captain general, and charged with coastguard and salvage responsibilities, Florida was not a remote frontier like New Mexico but, instead, a maritime colony like Cuba, Chile, or the Philippines. St Augustine and its hinterland could not be isolated from events in the Atlantic, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Antonio de Matos.  Descripcion de las costas de tierra firme de la America Septentrional … por el theniente de fragata y piloto de la Real Armada Dn. Antonio de Matos año de 1740.  Manuscript.

This manuscript chart of the “Spanish Lake” of the Caribbean clearly lays out the focus of Spain’s interest and influence and demonstrates as well the strategic value of the Florida peninsula. Drawn on vellum, with wind roses, an odd shape, and decorative colors, this chart gives the impression of dating from the age of exploration.  In fact, Lieutenant de Matos of the Spanish navy drew it in 1740 on the modern Mercator projection for the use of ships and pilots at the opening of the 1739-1748 War of the Austrian Succession (in America, the War of Jenkins’ Ear). It is much more accurate than the commonly available charts that his British counterparts had in the English Pilot. Fourth Book

George Oglethorpe and St. Augustine

The joint expedition of South Carolina and Georgia against the Spanish city of St. Augustine in 1740 was designed to interrupt Spain’s elaborate preparations for an attack on the southern English colonies. The attack led by Oglethorpe failed, but he and his forces effectively defeated a Spanish counterattack in July, 1742, saving both Georgia and South Carolina from almost certain destruction. Nevertheless, South Carolina loudly blamed Oglethorpe for the 1740 defeat, bringing about a war of words and heated debates in print. 


44. "Eye draft of St. Augustin situate upon the coast of Florida with Mr Oglethorpes siege thereof 1741."  Manuscript. [ca.1741].


45. An impartial account of the late expedition against St. Augustine under General Oglethorpe.  London, 1742.

A pamphlet from the anti-Oglethorpe camp.


46. "G[enera]l Oglethorpe’s siege of St. Agustin."  [This plan of the siege of Saint Augustin attempted by Brigadier Oglethorpe and miscarried in the year 1740 was copied from a sailor draft.  Fort George December 1744].  Manuscript.


47. George Cadogan. The Spanish hireling detected: being a refutation of the several calumnies and falsehoods in a late pamphlet, entitul’d “An impartial account.London, 1743. 

A pamphlet from the pro-Oglethorpe side. Little did the pamphleteers suspect that in twenty years Florida would be taken peacefully at the treaty table when Spain ceded Florida to Great Britain in order to regain Havana.

To next section: British Reconnaissance: Florida Restored to Spain & Epilogue  

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.