A Painting by Christopher M. Still
Oil on Linen 48 x 126 in
Andrew Jackson holds up the twenty-three star American flag flown in 1821, the year Florida became a United States territory. Florida's first permanent capitol sits amid the rolling hills of Tallahassee, and a slave woman gazes into the future. This painting represents that period of great change from the early 1800s until Florida drafted its first constitution in 1838.
The Spanish flag had flown over La Florida for nearly 300 years when in 1818 Andrew Jackson crossed the border in a military expedition to end an Indian uprising. After dealing with the Indians, he brashly went on to easily capture Spanish forts in the area, making it quite clear that Spain's hold on the land was tenuous. His effort led to the Adams-Onís Treaty in 1819 which would make East and West Florida into United States territory. Jackson returned to Florida in 1821 to take formal possession of the land. He served as its military governor for a brief three months-beginning the Americanization of the former La Florida.
Still divided into two parts, Florida had a capital in both St. Augustine and Pensacola. This arrangement proved extremely inconvenient and dangerous for the area's new delegates, who had to make long, dangerous journeys from one capital to the other. They quickly decided to unite Florida into one territory and choose a new, more conveniently located capital-midway between the two cities. The area of Tallahassee was selected for its beautiful landscape as well as for its location. Thirteen delegates and the new governor met in a simple log building there in the fall of 1824, established the town of Tallahassee, and began the business of governing the territory. Two years later a more permanent brick structure was built.
When acquired in 1821, Florida was mainly wilderness with pockets of Indians, African-Americans and Spaniards. Planters and settlers made their way into the territory, rapidly increasing its population, particularly in cotton growing regions. Florida's cotton plantations were soon producing as much cotton as adjoining states and a large number of Florida's new residents were black slaves.
As the territory developed and naturally began to push toward statehood, its major obstacles were the removal of Indians and problems with Spanish land grants-tracts of land given to individuals prior to U.S. occupation. Many of these grants were in litigation for years. A treaty in 1832 provided for the Indians to be moved out of the state, but many Seminoles refused to leave their homeland, resulting in the Second Seminole War.
Florida's first constitution was drafted at a territorial constitutional convention in 1838. It was ratified by a close vote, and Florida petitioned for statehood. Not until 1845 did Congress pass a bill to admit Florida to the American Union as its twenty-seventh state.
More detailed information on the murals can be found at the artist's website: http://www.christopherstill.com
Copyright © 2002-2004. All Rights Reserved. Christopher M. Still.