Friday, September 11, 2009
English Success in the Floridas
Choosing the most successful of the three empires (French, Spanish, and English) that notably struggled for control of early Florida is similar to picking the lesser of three evils. Common to all of them were attitudes with degrees of superiority to the Natives, all manifesting into violence on a number of occasions. Each also shared marked difficulties with the environment, making true settlement incredibly difficult. However, the most adept in this regard was most certainly the English, who took a verydifferent approach than their predecessors. At the time that England acquired the Floridas in 1763 as a part of the Treaty of Paris, they were undoubtedly the dominant European Empire in North America. Their superior navy, expansive trade, and populous and profitable colonies were only elevated even higher following the Seven Years' War, which devastated the already waning influence had by the Spanish and French Empires, respectively. There was a significant amount more that was known about the Floridas than when others attempted to settle it. While there remained these depictions and ideas of the tropical paradise of Florida, there was a degree more realism. There were no longer vast efforts to discover gold and silver deposits, and there was more understanding of the difficulties of the environment, such as the heat and insects. Even more important, the English approached the Natives from the beginning as an alternative to the harshness of their past European encounters. They put forth a spirit of cooperation and conciliation, and indeed, this attitude proved to serve well early on, with the English enjoying a peaceful and profitable relationship with their neighbors, and the many Natives of the petite nations who had been decimated in the past enjoying a brief flourish. It is necessary to note that this did change, as English attitudes regarding the "barbarity" of the Natives and efforts to "civilize" them all went the same way as the Spanish and French, with the eventual dehumanization and subsequent violent response towards these peoples. Also, the English, with their good starting relations with the Indians and their greater understanding of the natural environment's potential in Florida led them to be more successful than past empires, but it remains that the region was never significantly profitable or well-settled (only 10,000 Britons at the time of Spanish repossession), so little so, that it was regarded as a negligible loss following the end of the American Revolution.