West Florida

West Florida
Territory of Great Britain (1763–83), Spain (1783–1821). Areas disputed between Spain and United States from 1783–1795 and 1803–1821.







Flag of West Florida

Location of West Florida
British West Florida in 1767.
CapitalPensacola (1763)
 • 1763George Johnstone
 • Treaty of ParisFebruary 10, 1763
 • Transferred to Spain1783
 • Treaty of San Lorenzo1795
 • Treaty of San Ildefonso1800
 • Republic of West Florida1810
 • Annexation by U.S.December 10, 1810


West Florida (Spanish: Florida Occidental) was a region on the north shore of the Gulf of Mexico that underwent several boundary and sovereignty changes during its history. As its name suggests, it was formed out of the western part of former Spanish Florida (East Florida formed the eastern part, with the Apalachicola River the border), along with lands taken from French Louisiana; West Florida's capital was Pensacola. The colony included about 2/3 of what is now the Florida Panhandle, as well as parts of the modern U.S. states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

Great Britain established West and East Florida in 1763 out of land taken from France and Spain after the French and Indian War. As the newly acquired territory was too large to govern from one administrative center, the British divided it into two new colonies separated by the Apalachicola River. British West Florida's government was based in Pensacola; and the colony included the part of formerly Spanish Florida which lay west of the Apalachicola, plus parts of formerly French Louisiana. It thus comprised all territory between the Mississippi and Apalachicola Rivers, with a northern boundary which shifted several times over the subsequent years.

Both West and East Florida remained loyal to the British crown during the American Revolution, and served as havens for Tories fleeing from the Thirteen Colonies. Spain invaded West Florida and captured Pensacola in 1781, and after the war Britain ceded both Floridas to Spain. However, the lack of defined boundaries led to a series of border disputes between Spanish West Florida and the fledgling United States known as the West Florida Controversy.

Because of disagreements with the Spanish government, American and English settlers between the Mississippi and Perdido rivers declared that area as the independent Republic of West Florida in 1810. (None of the short-lived Republic lay within the borders of the modern U.S. state of Florida; it comprised the Florida parishes of today's Louisiana.) Within months it was annexed by the United States, which claimed the region as part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. In 1819 the United States negotiated the purchase of the remainder of West Florida and all of East Florida in the Adams–Onís Treaty, and in 1822 both were merged into the Florida Territory.


The area known as West Florida was originally claimed by Spain as part of La Florida, which included most of what is now the southeastern United States. Spain made several attempts to conquer and colonize the area, notably including Tristán de Luna's short-lived settlement in 1559, but it was not settled permanently until the 17th century, with the establishment of missions to the Apalachee. In 1698 the settlement of Pensacola was established to check French expansion into the area.

Beginning in the late 17th century, the French established settlements along the Gulf Coast and in the region as part of their colonial La Louisiane, including Mobile (1702) and Fort Toulouse (1717) in present-day Alabama[1]:134 and Fort Maurepas (1699) in present-day coastal Mississippi. After years of contention between France and Spain, they agreed to use the Perdido River (the modern border between Florida and Alabama) as the boundary between French Louisiana and Spanish Florida.[1]:122

Before 1762 France had owned and administered the land west of the Perdido River as part of La Louisiane. A secret treaty in 1762 had effectively, upon being revealed in 1764, ceded to Spain all of French Louisiana west of the Mississippi River, as well as the Isle of Orleans. Notably, Spain failed to make good by occupancy its title to Louisiana until 1769, when it took formal possession. For six years, therefore, Louisiana as France possessed it, and as Spain received it,[2] included none of the West Florida territory between the Mississippi and Perdido rivers, as the title to that territory passed immediately from France to Britain in 1763, following its defeat in the Seven Years' War.[3]:48

Under the treaty concluding the French and Indian War (Seven Years' War) in 1763, Britain obtained immediate title to all of French Louisiana east of the Mississippi River. This included the land between the Perdido and Mississippi rivers. Spain also ceded to Great Britain its territory of La Florida, in exchange for Cuba, which the British had captured during the war. As a result, for the next two decades, the British controlled nearly all of the coast of the Gulf of Mexico east of the Mississippi River.[1]:134 Most of the Spanish population left Florida at that time, and its colonial government records were relocated to Havana, Cuba.

Other Languages
Deutsch: Westflorida
한국어: 서플로리다
Bahasa Indonesia: Florida Barat
日本語: 西フロリダ
português: Flórida Ocidental
română: West Florida
svenska: Västflorida