Slavery and Plantation Growth in Antebellum Florida, 1821-1860

Slavery and Plantation Growth in Antebellum Florida, 1821-1860

Slavery and Plantation Growth in Antebellum Florida, 1821-1860

Slavery and Plantation Growth in Antebellum Florida, 1821-1860

Excerpt

Slaves were introduced into Florida when the area was claimed by Spain as part of her vast colonial empire in America. As early as 1580, colonial officials had requested permission to import Negro slaves to be used as a work force in the area of St. Augustine. Several years later a small group was brought in to help reinforce the fort there and to clear the woods for planting. This importation of Negro slaves into Spanish Florida did not increase in any significant way, due to the rigid restrictions of the Spanish Crown prohibiting the use of slave labor in Florida on a scale comparable to that of the labor forces used to develop the sugar plantations of the Spanish West Indies. Thus, a labor shortage prevailed in Florida during the period of Spanish control, between 1565 and 1763. This greatly hampered the development of crop production and the colony was never self-sustaining, having to rely upon staples imported from Havana, Cuba, and abroad.

With the cession of Florida to Great Britain in 1763, at the close of the Seven Years' War, the Spanish population withdrew. Even before this war ended, wealthy planters and merchants of South Carolina had become interested in East Florida along the St. Johns River for cultivating rice and indigo. Some of them moved to the area, imported Negro slaves, and developed large plantations with the use of this labor force. During the American Revolution, many Tories from Georgia and South Carolina fled to Florida, taking their Negro slaves with them. Approximately five thousand whites . . .

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