The Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819 (formally titled the Treaty of Amity, Settlement, and Limits Between the United States of America and His Catholic Majesty, and also known as the Transcontinental Treaty of 1819, and sometimes the Florida Treaty) was a historic agreement between the United States and Spain that settled a border dispute in North America between the two nations. The treaty was the result of increasing tensions between the U.S. and Spain regarding territorial rights at a time of weakened Spanish power in the New World. In addition to granting Florida to the United States, the treaty settled a boundary dispute along the Sabine River in Texas and firmly established the boundary of U.S. territory to the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. It also had the effect of ending the first and paving the way for the second of the Seminole Wars in Florida.
The treaty was negotiated by John Quincy Adams, the Secretary of State under U.S. President James Monroe, and the Spanish foreign minister Luis de Onís. In the agreement, the U.S. paid $5 million dollars for the territorial rights of Florida and relinquished its claims of parts of Texas west of the Sabine and other Spanish areas. The treaty was concluded on February 22, 1819 in Washington, D.C. and ratifications were exchanged and the treaty proclaimed on February 22, 1821.
Spain had been forced to negotiate because it was losing its hold on its colonial empire, with its western colonies primed to revolt. In its weakened state, it was fairly certain to lose the land to the United States following the Louisiana Purchase in 1804. Spain had questioned the validity of the purchase, stating that France had no right to sell Louisiana because such a sale went against the agreements in the Treaty of San Ildefonso, but there was also much discussion about the extent of the area that the United States had bought from France.
The Spanish had a very restricted view of Louisiana, considering it to comprise the west bank of the Mississippi and the city of New Orleans. The United States on the other hand claimed that the land they bought extended all the way to the Rio Grande and the Rocky Mountains, thus encompassing much of Spain's colonies of Texas and New Mexico. There was also disagreement between the two countries about West Florida.
Under the terms of the treaty, Spain sold its territories of East and West Florida to the United States. The U.S. agreed to assume financial claims by residents against the Spanish government. In the west, the boundary was determined to be the Sabine River from the Gulf of Mexico to the 32nd parallel, then north to the Red River to its headwaters, then north to the Arkansas, then north to the 42nd parallel. Spain gave up its claims to the Oregon Country north of this boundary. For the United States this meant that its territory now extended far west from the Mississippi, all the way to the Pacific Ocean. For Spain it meant that it kept its colonies in Texas, and also kept a buffer zone between its colonies in California and New Mexico and the US territories.
The treaty was not ratified until 1821. The independence of Mexico allowed a reopening of the controversy regarding the border with Texas, during which the United States claimed that the Sabine and Neches rivers had been switched on maps, thus attempting to claim more land. As a consequence, the eastern boundary of Texas was not firmly established until the independence of the Republic of Texas in 1836.
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