Friday, September 11, 2009

European Empires in Florida

In the 17th Century, England, Spain and France were the main powers in European Florida. Even though England had established a more democratic and mixed constitution by the late 17th Century, it failed to improve its relations with the natives of Florida. Because of the rift between the Catholic Church and the Protestant church, England began to suffer from rebellions from within their countries’ political parties as well. The Whigs began to rebel from the Tories, causing animosity within the government and the King James II. Creating a greater problem was the lack of trust the Native Americans had for the British government. The Treaty of Paris in 1763 demoted England’s military strength. Natives were treated poorly and in result, England had trouble adjusting to Florida. The English were poorly suited for the hot and humid climate of Florida, were autocratic, uncreative and outdated in their military strategies. England’s poor attempts to educate and civilize natives only created greater problems. Anglicization ultimately failed because the natives were being forced into conversion, which they retaliated by rebellions. Even though England was a stronger military power than any Native tribe and France, its lack of respect and racism towards the natives did not earn England a chance to adjust to the environmental factors of Florida. An example of this racism is shown by Bernard Romans in the 1770s who claims that the natives are a “treacherous, cruel, deceitful, faithless and thieving race” (Murphree 106). This view is reciprocated among many English settlers who cannot adjust to Florida because they view the natives and environment as rough, uncivil, and wild, instead of trying to understand it.
France was far more successful than its European counterpart in terms of diplomacy and adjustment to Florida. Not only did France respect the Native American tribes, but created a strong diplomatic bond. Other French opinions were mixed. Natives were disregarded in 1706 as “savage by some, such as Penicaut, while others such as Charles Levasseur viewed them as strong and merry” (Murphree 78) Trade of fur and diplomacy guaranteed tolerance and acceptance of Florida’s rough environment and indigenous people. The French were wise enough not to impose too much force upon the neighboring tribes. Even though different, French-Indian relations remained intact through mutual agreement on trade, food, military support and cultural respect. Because of this great amount of tolerance, despite slavery, France remained a powerful ally to the native tribes. Not only did this relationship affect both sides mutually, but affected the way in which Florida was viewed upon. Florida became to be respected by France, thus, creating a willingness to adjust to the contrasting culture between the two sides.

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