The Spanish had great expectations of Florida despite disastrous results from expeditions such as Ponce de Leon and Lucas Vazquez de Ayllon's. In a description of the panhandle region from Hernando de Soto's campaigns, Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo wrote, “The Province of Apalache is very fertile and abundantly provided with much corn, kidney beans, pumpkins, various fruits, much venison, many varieties of birds and excellent fishing near the sea.” Notwithstanding the environmental benefits, the Spanish were ultimately unsuccessful in establishing a plantation economy in Florida. Both the British and the proto-Seminoles achieved greater success in establishing a plantation economy after the failure of the Spanish. Many factors contributed to the success of the proto-Seminoles and British in Florida including increased population, choice of economy, and African presence in Florida.
The British were extremely successful in populating Florida in the late eighteenth century. Florida’s exoticism was instrumental in recruiting British settlement in Florida. “Most publications describing the Florida’s during the colonial era originated in England.” At that time, Florida was depicted in oral and written accounts as an exotic region whose natural setting would undoubtedly benefit the British Empire. Such depictions were used as a type of propaganda. The publications of William Bartram (1739-1823) provide one example.
William Bartram was a natural historian and artist who kept detailed accounts of his travels in Florida before he was interrupted by the American Revolution. His manuscript, published in 1791, contained adventurous accounts of his experiences in Florida that would seem like science fiction to readers at the time. In chapter five of his publication, he describes his encounters with alligators in Florida. “His plaited tail brandished high, floats upon the lake. The waters like a cataract descend from his opening jaws. Clouds of smoke issue from his dilated nostrils.” Such outlandish stories coupled with a sense of ambition and adventure, and greed, “prompted immigrants from Great Britain and other North American colonies to depart for the region and seek their fortunes.”
Migration, slave raids, disease, and like factors contributed to a massive depopulation of Indian Florida. Before their departure, the Spanish recognized the void that had been created and pushed the Creeks to repopulate Florida. Throughout the eighteenth century, Florida saw waves of Creek migration and transformed into what historian Andrew K. Frank labels 'Indian country'. Not only did they repopulate Indian Florida, “...between 1750 and 1810 dozens of Semi-autonomous Indian villages controlled the region, and Florida remained Indian country.” Population was not the only factor that contributed to the success of Florida’s plantation economy under the proto-Seminole and the British.
Unlike their Spanish predecessors, British planters in Florida sought the help...