|The Republic of Florida|
|Largest City||San Agustín|
|Currency||Floridian peseta (FLP)|
Florida (Spanish: La Florida) also called the Republic of Florida is a nation located in southeastern North America. The country is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the west by South Tussenland, to the north by Virginia, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, and to the south by the Straits of Florida. The capital and largest urban agglomeration is the city of San Agustín. Santa Cruz, Tahensa and San Miguel are other major urban areas in the nation.
Native Americans had been living in Florida for at least 14,000 years when the first European contact was made in 1513 by Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León, who called it la Florida or "the land of flowers" upon landing there. From the 16th to late 18th century Florida was a backwater of the Spanish Empire and faced countless raids by Pirates, Native Americans and the Dutch. In the 19th century the Floridian economy started to grow along with it's importance as an agricultural exporting colony and as a port-of-call in the Spanish Americas. In 1887 Florida became a royal dominion of Spain and gained popular sovereignty (or self governance on internal matters) but was ruled by a cliché of Criollo elites in and around San Agustin. In the 1930's during the bloody Floridian civil war Republican forces kicked out the Spanish empire and declared the Republic of Florida.
Today Florida is a developing nation with a rocky past and serious issues but a strong economy. The nation's economy relies mainly on tourism, agriculture, and transportation, which developed in the late 19th century. Florida is renowned for it's beaches, colorful history, diverse population, citrus crops, winter vegetables and vibrant historic port cities. Florida is a reflection of influences and multiple inheritance; African, European, indigenous, Latino, and Asian heritages can be found in the architecture and cuisine.
The first European contact was made in 1513 by Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León, who called it la Florida ([la floˈɾiða] "the land of flowers") upon landing there.
In May 1539, Conquistador Hernando de Soto skirted the coast of Florida, searching for a deep harbor to land. He described a thick wall of red mangroves spread mile after mile, some reaching as high as 70 feet (21 m), with intertwined and elevated roots making landing difficult. The Spanish introduced Christianity, cattle, horses, sheep, the Castilian language, and more to Florida. Spain established several settlements in Florida, with varying degrees of success. In 1559, Don Tristán de Luna y Arellano established a settlement at present-day Pensacola, making it the first attempted settlement in Florida, but it was mostly abandoned by 1561.
In 1565, the settlement of San Agustín was established under the leadership of admiral and governor Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, creating what would become one of the oldest, continuously-occupied European settlements in North America and establishing the first generation of Floridanos and the Government of Florida. Spain maintained strategic control over the region by converting the local tribes to Christianity.
Some Spanish married or had unions with Pensacola, Creek or African women, both slave and free, and their descendants created a mixed-race population of mestizos and mulattos. The Spanish encouraged slaves from the Virginia to come to Florida as a refuge, promising freedom in exchange for conversion to Catholicism. The King of Spain issued a royal proclamation freeing all slaves who fled to Spanish Florida and accepted conversion and baptism. Most went to the area around St. Augustine, but escaped slaves also reached Pensacola. St. Augustine had mustered an all-black militia unit defending Spanish Florida as early as 1683. This unique relationship between the Spanish and escaped slaves unfortunately ended in the 18th century after the Spanish Succession Crisis when the British and Spanish empires became allies. During the 17th century the Spanish Florida refused to accept any more escaped slaves and as such many of these escaped slaves instead fled west from Virginia to join up with Native American tribes.
Period of Increased Settlement
Starting in the 1690's the Dutch started building forts on the mouth of the Mississippi river, and Dutch settlers and their native allies started encroaching on Spanish land claims. Between 1700 and 1730 the Dutch and the Spanish competed over land in the gulf coast and western Florida, with the two empires mostly using Indian allies as intermediaries. This period is usually referred to as the Gulf Wars. This led to a period of increased effort to settle the colony by the Spanish empire. Starting in 1708 the Spanish started to offer large grants to potential settlers and importing indentured servants and minor criminals from northern Spain (Galicia, Basque county, Asturias and Leon) as well as Cuba. These settlers mostly ending up in northeastern Florida surrounding San Agustín. Between 1726-1735, the Spanish moved over 2000 Canary Islanders (locally known as Isleños) to settle the gulf coast of the Florida colony. In the later half of the 18th century, the Spanish imported Filipino fisherman and army deserters to the western border with Tussenland. During American theater of the Silesian war, the Spanish and Dutch empires came to an agreement over the borders of the gulf colonies.
Age of Piracy
In the Caribbean, piracy had been a major issue since the late 16th century but from 1660 to 1750 the quantity and success of pirates in the Caribbean dramatically increased (this period is also known as the Golden Age of Piracy). This increase in piracy can be attributed to many factors including growing populations of in Western Europe, lack of major wars leading to less jobs for sailors, profitability of smuggling operations and a proliferation of "unpoliced" areas in the Caribbean and along the gulf of Mexico that served as pirate ports.
The majority of pirates at this time were Anglo, Anglo-Colonial or Dutch in origin and had bases across the Caribbean including the Bahamas, Jamaica, Virginia, Florida, Tejas & Yucatan. During the pirate clearing of the Bahamas in 1718 many pirates in Nassau and other area fled to the tip of Florida and founded the settlements of Freeport, New Nassau (now Cuevas) and Jacobstown (now Santa Cruz).
From 1720 to 1750 the Spanish fought a series of wars to rid of Florida of these pirates (who now fashioned themselves as 'The 2nd Pirate Republic'). Due to the pirates mastery of navigation along with the harsh and defensible terrain of southern Florida, the Spanish had trouble effectively dealing with the pirates and in 1750 they negotiated with the four of the premier 'pirate lords' of the region ( Jim "King Andrew" Briggs, Catherine Kelly, One-eye Ned Jacobszoon, "El Lobo" Bortholomew Jones) to come under the employ of the Spanish crown as privateers and be given clemency and land grants in southern Florida. This strategy worked and the Spanish employed their new privateers to much effectiveness in the great Silesian War (1750-1755). After the war most of these privateers settled in the land granted to them by the Spanish Crown (besides Bortholomew Jones who left for the East Indies and Ned Jacobszoon who got hit in the head with a cannonball during the war). These pirate settlers contributed to settlement and growth of Spanish Florida with cities like Port Andrews and Santa Cruz growing into important ports of call in the mid and late 18th century.
Spanish Florida in the Early 19th Century
The turn of the century marked a lot of big changes in Floridian society with it's population and levels of economic development reaching catching up with many other European colonies and it's existence not being under constant threat of annexing by other power. Between 1800 and 1840 in parts of the north around San Agustin there was a rise in the number of sugar and cotton plantations much to the delight of the Spanish imperial authorities (whom previous thought Florida was more a money sink than anything and at one point before the Argentine Purchase considered offering to sell Florida the British). In 1810, the Spanish undertook the last of the Muscogee or Creek wars to pacify the natives in the interior of the colony which led to the 1813 Treaty of San Agustin in which the Spanish gave the Muscogee & Creek rights to part of their historic land in the interior of the colony in exchange for becoming citizens and adopting Catholicism. By 1819, the colony was so well-received that the Spanish Empire changed the status of Florida to that of a captaincy general under direct control of the crown. During the Latin American Spring of Nations Florida managed to avoid any major uprising due to it's more rural population and lack of liberal agitation. In 1842 on the heels of the Puerto Rican & Mexican revolts as well as the Colombian war for independence the Spanish abolished the institution of slavery.
Dutch-Spanish War and the growth of Spanish Florida
In 1850 after years of tension between the Spanish and Dutch, the two empires went to war. This was ended in a humiliating defeat for the Dutch as they lost land on the western Dutch-Spanish frontier to New Spain as well as loosing their gulf coast holdings to the newly independent South Tussenland Republic and parts to Spanish Florida. As the Spanish had already abolished slavery after the Latin American Spring of Nations, many now-freed Afro-Dutch in the now western Florida rejoiced and most of the ethnically Dutch population of the territory fled north to Tussenland. Immediately after the war the governor of Spanish Florida declared that all lands in the conquered territory to be crown lands and between 1852 and 1865 these lands were doled out to the colonial elites and those with political connections. This angered many of the former slaves in the area who were expecting that the Spanish crown to distribute the land in parcels to them. Between 1855 and 1900 a form of sharecropping developed in western Florida whereas eastern elites would allow poor farmers to farm the land in exchange to upwards of 50% of their harvest. This system had many negative effects such as keeping many poor farmers trapped in perpetual debt and poverty.
Spanish Florida during the Communard Wars
Between 1872-1878 western Europe was wracked by the devastating Communard Revolutions (1872-1878) in which French, Belgique, German, Italian and Spanish radicals rose up in revolution. Between 1877 and 1878 Spain itself was occupied by Communard forces and the Spanish King was ruling the empire in exile from Mexico City, New Spain. During this period many connected Spanish peninsular elites fled to the colonies and in particular eastern Florida was seen as a prestige designation, this led to a surge of wealth and development in the San Agustin area (but also down the eastern Atlantic coast of Florida).
After the deposition of the communard government in Spain and the restoration of the Spanish king to the throne, viceroys of New Spain and Peru declared independence (due to numerous growing political and economic differences as well as colonial elite anger at the King's reforms while in Mexico) as the Kingdoms of Mexico and Peru, respectively. This led to panic within the Spanish Empire and after numerous failed attempts to retrieve the rebellious viceroys (in which Florida was used as base of operation) the Spanish government recognized the independence of their former colonies. Loosing their richest and most profitable colonies created a profound shift in Spanish internal policy towards empire and in their remaining American colonies (Cuba, Puerto Rico, Florida) the Spanish allowed for a greater degree of self governance, but also started to crack down on rebellious or seditionist actively through the creation of a royal secret police force. On June 28th, 1887 Cuba, Puerto Rico and Florida were granted popular sovereignty as royal dominions of Spain. This change in colonial status was perceived and enact very differently amongst the colonies due to each royal Dominionship charter being created jointly with the governors of the colonies. In Puerto Rico 1887 marched the beginning of democracy and mostly free elections, while in Cuba, not much changed in governance and in 1890 the long and bloody Cuban war of independence kicked off. In Florida much of the charter was written in order to favor the eastern San Agustin elites and their interests. In fact, many of the poorer classes remarked that life was better and the government less harsh prior to the reforms; the last decade of the 19th century in Florida was marked by increasing class and regional tensions within society.
The Everglades War and Floridian Independence
Since the 2nd Dutch-Spanish War (1850), class and ethnic tensions had been growing in Spanish Florida, with western Floridians feeling increasingly marginalized by the consolidated economic and political power with in the hands of the criollo and mixed race elites of San Agustin. In addition the system of sharecropping in western and central Florida created a poor quality of life for many low class Floridians.
The origins of the Floridian war for independence lays in the European Economic Crisis (1922-1928) whereas many Floridian elites lost small fortunes in European financial markets and had to sell their land holdings (and the sharecropping contracts that went with it) to wealthy northeastern North American businessmen in New Netherland and New England who in turn demanded increased cash crop production and a decrease in production of locally consumed staple crops (in order to increase profits on their investments). This, combined with decreased global prices for cotton and increased food import prices, led to a sharp increase in local food prices and a growing political discontent amongst the poor. This discontent came to a head after 25 western Floridians were killed in a bread riot in Tahensa, which in turn led to a rebellion in the city against Spanish and Dominion forces. This rebellion quickly spread into the countryside of western Florida where sharecroppers threw down their tools and took up arms against the Spanish and Dominion forces equally. In the town of Conecuh, leaders of rebellion came together on June 5th, 1923 to organize themselves and come up with a list of demands. The rebels named themselves Comité de los Campesinos Pobres and listed their demands as:
- Land reform in western and central Florida
- Create a government subsisted market for staple food
- Rewrite the constitution to insure every Floridian had the right to vote
- Stop cruel labor practices and establish a labor rights law
It is notable that at this point Floridan rebels weren't actively republican, but instead were focused on improving their quality of life and with issues of economics and labor relations. The Dominion government in San Agustin completely rejected these demands. In fact, Floridian governor Fernando Macías stated "If they are hungry let them eat lead". The Floridian Dominion forces struck back at the rebels with increasing hostility which in turn led to further discontentment against Dominion rule and by the winter of 1923 the rebellion spread to central Florida and the peninsula. Fearing that the Dominion didn't have the ability to effectively deal with the rebels, the Spanish crown sent in troops to help suppress the rebellion and on Dec 27th 1923 they retook the city of Tahensa from rebel forces.
During the next year of fighting the rebels became increasingly a guerilla force that sought to wage a protracted war of attrition using hit and run tactics, their popularity with the countryfolk and knowledge of the local terrain to great effect. During the summer of 1924, the recently formed Mexican Republic (along with South Tussenland) started to build ties with the rebels and push them towards ideological republicanism. In January of 1925, the government of New Netherland declared support for the Dominion government (fearing a Mexican puppet state in Florida) and started to give support in form of aerial scouting (using newly invented aircraft) and economic funding to the Dominion war effort. The aerial scouting missions during the war garnered massive interest in the American northeast due to the use of aircraft and stories of the pilots (along with special forces and Amerikaener mercenaries) were widely publicized. The battle of Amarillo in the Floridan everglades was in fact so widely publicized for it's stories of daring aircraft pilots and Amerikaener and Spanish forces fighting guerillas side by side that in most of the western world the war instead is known as "The Everglades War" even though most of the war took place outside the everglades in western Florida. Additionally fame during this battle led to the rise of New Netherland's longest serving House of Burgher member Timmothy "Ace" Warwyck party.
In the last year of the war from 1926 to 1927, the Spanish economy was on a downturn and public attitudes in New Netherland lost interest in the war with it being seen more of a distraction than anything to commit regular troops to. On March 9th 1927 after the historic port city of Santa Cruz fell to the rebels, the government of New Netherland turned against the war and pressured the Spanish to organize a peace summit. After weeks of negotiation on April 12st 1927, the Spanish withdrew from Florida and the Republic of Florida was declared. This peace deal was controversial and after 2 years of political deadlock, including a period of time where two separate rival legislatures declared themselves to be the official government of the nation, the constitution was rewritten on August 1st 1929.