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West Florida
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West Florida

West Florida was from 1682 until 1763 a part of the French colony of Louisiana. At the end of the Seven Years' War, Britain received the Spanish colony of Florida and a portion of the French colony of Louisiana lying between the Mississippi and Perdido rivers and north of Lake Pontchartrain. The British organized this territory into the provinces of East Florida, which consisted of most of the present U.S. state of Florida, and West Florida, bounded by the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain in the west, by the 31st parallel on the north and the Apalachicola River on the east. The British capital of West Florida was in Pensacola.

In 1767, the British moved the northern boundary to a line extending from the mouth of the Yazoo River east to the Chattahoochee River (32°28 minutes north latitude), consisting of approximately the lower third of the present states of Mississippi and Alabama. In the 1783 Treaty of Paris that ended the American Revolutionary War, the British ceded both Florida provinces back to Spain, but without specifying the boundaries. The Spanish wanted the expanded 1764 boundary, while the U.S. demanded the old boundary at the 31st parallel. In the Treaty of San Lorenzo of 1795, Spain recognized the 31st parallel as the boundary.

In the secret Treaty of San Ildefonso of 1800, Spain returned France's Louisiana colony, however the boundaries were not specified. After France sold the Louisiana Purchase to the United States in 1803, another boundary dispute erupted. The U.S. claimed the territory from the Perdido River to the Mississippi River, which had been a part of the old province of Louisiana when the French had ceded it in 1763. The Spanish insisted they administered that portion as the province of West Florida and that it was not part of the territory returned to France in 1800.

The U.S. and Spain held long, inconclusive negotions. In the meantime, U.S. settlers established a foothold in the area and resisted Spanish control. British settlers who had remained also resented Spanish rule, leading to a rebellion in 1810 and the establishment of the Free and Independent Republic of West Florida. On September 23, after meetings beginning in June, rebels overcame the Spanish garrison at Baton Rouge.

The boundaries of the Republic of West Florida included all territory south of the 31st parallel, west of the Perdido River, and east of the Mississippi River, but north of Lake Pontchartrain. The southern boundary was of course the Gulf of Mexico. It included the lower portions of what is now Alabama and Mississippi and the Louisiana parishes of East Baton Rouge, East and West Feliciana, Livingston, St. Helena, Tangipahoa, St. Tammany and Washington.

The capital of the Republic of West Florida was St. Francisville. The first governor was Fulwar Skipwith whose great-granddaughter, Leila Lee Roberts, of Staten Island, New York, has donated the original copy of the constitution of the West Florida Republic and supporting papers to the Louisiana State Archives.

Parts of West Florida was annexed by proclamation of U.S. President James Madison, with possession taken of St. Francisville on December 6, 1810 and of Baton Rouge on December 10, 1810. These portions were incorporated into the newly formed Orleans Territory. The U.S. annexed the Mobile District of West Florida to the Mississippi Territory in 1812. Spain continued to dispute the area, though the U.S. gradually increased the area it occupied until Spain ceded all of Florida to the U.S. in the Adams-Onís Treaty in 1819. The U.S. organized Florida Territory, consisting of most of East Florida a small portion of West Florida, on March 30, 1822.

The portions of West Florida now located in Louisiana are today known as the Florida parishes.

The Free and Independent State of West Florida flew the Bonnie Blue Flag, a single white star on a blue backgound that was later flown in its early days by the Confederate States of America.

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