Colonial Transition in Florida
For 200 years, the Spanish Empire ruled over half of the world, but the wealth of the newly ‘discovered’ lands of Africa, Asia, and the Americas spawned rivals to Spanish power in Europe and overseas. A series of conflicts erupted throughout the colonial era. On July 21, 1763, Spanish officials in St. Augustine transferred the territory to British forces under the command of Captain John Hedges of the British Army.
A New Power Emerges
In 1763, the Seven Years’ War (or the French and Indian War, as it was called in America) came to an end. Great Britain and her American colonies had won against the combined forces of France and Spain. It had been the first truly world war. The armies of Great Britain had conquered Canada and several French-held islands in the Caribbean. They had also stormed and occupied Havana, Cuba, Spain’s principal seaport and administrative headquarters for much of Spanish America, and Manila in the Spanish Philippines, transshipment point of the wealth of the orient. Without these cities, Spain’s overseas empire would soon crumble. Part of the Treaty of Paris ending the war returned them to Spanish control in exchange for the territory of Florida, which became the British Crown colonies of East and West Florida, giving Great Britain control over all of North America east of the Mississippi River.
End of an Era
For the Spanish floridanos, it was a bitter defeat. Though they had successfully defended Florida, they were now forced to abandon the only home they had ever known, one that many of their great-grandfathers had molded from the wilderness. For the English, it meant a new colony to settle and untold opportunities in land and trade. They flocked to St. Augustine, changing the face of the city forever.