3¢ Florida Statehood
Issue Date: March 3, 1945
City: Tallahassee, FL
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Rotary Press
Perforations: 11 x 10.5
Color: Bright red violet
The Florida Centennial issue, U.S. #927, pictures the state seal, the Gates of St. Augustine, and the capitol at Tallahassee.
Florida’s Road to Statehood
Ponce de León reached Florida in 1513 while searching for the mythical island of Bimini, said to be the site of the Fountain of Youth. Claiming the region for Spain, he named the area Florida, possibly in honor of Pascua Florida, Spanish for the Easter season. In 1521, León returned to Florida to start a colony, but died from wounds he received in a battle with Indians. Pánfilo de Narváez led an expedition of 400 men to Florida in a quest to find gold. Narváez and many of his men were killed in shipwrecks. Hernando de Soto of Spain arrived in the Tampa Bay area in 1539. He traveled beyond Florida, becoming the first European to reach the Mississippi River.
Interestingly, Florida’s first European settlers were not Spanish, but Huguenots (French Protestants). The Huguenots established a colony on the St. Johns River, building Fort Caroline near what is now Jacksonville. Spain’s King Philip II sent a force to drive the French from Florida. In 1565, they established the first permanent European settlement in what is now the United States, at St. Augustine. This group, led by Pedro Menédez of Avilés, massacred the French, ending any further attempts of settlement by that nation.
For the next 200 years, the Spanish attempted to teach the American Indians their way of life. France created colonies to the west of Florida, and Great Britain established colonies to the north. War erupted between the French and British colonists during the mid-1700s, and Spain began supporting the French. Great Britain conquered Cuba in 1762, and then traded it to Spain for control of Florida. However, British control of Florida ended during the American Revolutionary War, when Spanish forces invaded in 1781. By 1783, Spain had regained all of Florida.
By the late 1800s, Florida was the only part of southeastern North America not part of the U.S. Many Indians and runaway slaves fled from the U.S. to Florida. In 1812, settlers in Florida declared their independence from Spain, but were defeated militarily.
During the War of 1812, fought between the U.S. and Great Britain, Spain allowed Britain to use Pensacola as a naval base. American troops led by General Andrew Jackson seized Pensacola in 1814. Jackson entered Florida again during the First Seminole War (1817-18), capturing Fort St. Marks. Jackson also defeated the Seminole Indians. With the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819, Spain finally turned Florida over to the United States.
Florida officially became a part of the U.S. in 1821. Jackson served as governor until 1822, when Congress organized the Territory of Florida, with William P. Duval as its first governor. Settlers from the North poured into the state. Soon, conflicts arose between these settlers and the Seminole Indians, who controlled the state’s prime farmland. The U.S. government moved many Seminole to the Indian Territory in the Oklahoma region – but some Indians refused to leave their homeland. During the Second Seminole War (1835-42), most of these Indians were killed. The Third Seminole War (1855-58) resulted in the forced relocation of most of the surviving Indians. However, a few hundred of the Seminole retreated into the swamps.
By 1839, Florida had created a constitution and was ready for statehood. However, the conflicts over slavery (Florida was a slave state) delayed its admission until March 3, 1845. Most of Florida’s farms were small – only a third of the state’s farmers owned slaves.
Birth Of John Tyler
John Tyler was born on March 29, 1790, in Charles City County, Virginia.
One of seven children, Tyler was raised as part of the Southern elite. The son of a Virginia governor and later federal judge, John Tyler learned early in life the importance of the Constitution and the necessity that it be strictly followed.
Tyler graduated from the College of William and Mary at the age of just 17. He then studied law before starting his own legal practice 1811. At this same time, Tyler was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. He quickly became a well-known and respected politician for his convincing arguments. Tyler went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and again in Virginia House of Delegates before being elected to the U.S. Senate. During his term in the Senate, Tyler served as President pro tempore (second in rank in the Senate after the Vice President). He was the only U.S. President to have held this position.
Tyler ran for Vice President in 1836 and came in third with 47 electoral votes. Two years later he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates for the third time and was unanimously chosen as speaker.
During the election of 1840, Tyler was selected as William Henry Harrison’s running mate because he had done well in the South in the previous election and was popular there for his stance on states’ rights. The Harrison-Tyler campaign appealed to the common man and earned a strong electoral vote victory of 234 to 60.
Tyler was inaugurated to his new position on March 4, 1841. His three-minute inaugural address called it an honor “to occupy a seat which has been filled and adorned…by an Adams, a Jefferson, a Gerry, a Clinton, and a Tompkins.” He also expressed his views on states’ rights. Shortly after the inauguration, Tyler returned to Williamsburg, “with the expectation of spending the next four years in peace and quiet,” as President Harrison did not expect to need his help.
However, the peace and quiet only lasted one month. In the early morning hours of April 5, 1841, two horsemen woke the Vice President with a letter from the cabinet, informing him that Harrison died the day before. By the next morning, Tyler was back in the capitol, while the nation questioned what would happen next.
No President had died in office up to that point, and the wording of the Constitution resulted in several interpretations of its meaning. Some believed that Tyler did not need to be President to fulfill the duties of the office, while others believed he should serve as President for the remainder of the term. Tyler interpreted this to mean that he would become President, not “Vice President, acting as President,” as Harrison’s cabinet proposed. Despite the opposition from the cabinet, Tyler took the presidential oath on April 6.
Tensions between Tyler and his Cabinet continued to rise. One of the first major issues Tyler faced concerned the creation of a new banking system. Whig Senator Henry Clay supported the national bank, internal improvements, and protective tariffs. Tyler believed state sovereignty was more important than Clay’s “American System.” Further, Clay expected Tyler to allow him to run the country from the Senate and support his policies. However, Tyler had plans of his own – to create a weaker bank that would only be present in the states that wanted it. Neither man was willing to back down from his position.
The hostilities continued and despite compromise efforts, in September of 1841, Tyler’s entire Cabinet (with the exception of Daniel Webster) resigned in an attempt to force Tyler to resign as well. The move proved unsuccessful, as the following Monday, Tyler appointed a new Cabinet. Later that day, 60 Whigs congregated in a plaza near the Capitol, claiming they could no longer be responsible for Tyler’s actions – leaving the President without a party. For the nearly four years of his term, Tyler had “the most disrupted Cabinet in presidential history.”
Tyler’s battle with Congress continued as he vetoed two more tariff bills. However, when government revenues dropped dangerously low, Tyler agreed to the Tariff Act of 1842. This helped the economy, but put Tyler at odds with both the Northern Whigs (who criticized him for not creating a properly protective tariff) and the Southern states’ rights allies (who viewed the tariff as overly protective).
Tyler remained focused on his job in spite of his troubles with the Cabinet. Early in his administration, he realized the importance of opening trade with China, and organized a diplomatic mission there. This mission established an American consulate in China and initiated commercial trade between the two nations.
In 1842, Daniel Webster, Tyler’s only remaining original Cabinet member, negotiated the Webster-Ashburton Treaty with Great Britain. This settled a long-standing border dispute between the two countries that more than once nearly led to war. Although they were unable to establish the boundaries of Oregon, the treaty clearly defined the border between Maine and Canada. Tyler also invoked the Monroe Doctrine on Hawaii, warning the British to stay out of Hawaii’s affairs. This began Hawaii’s annexation to the U.S.
As he had served for some time without a party, Tyler wanted to create his own. He hoped that by annexing Texas to the U.S., he could build up enough support to establish his party. Tyler named his party the Democratic Republicans and used the slogan “Tyler and Texas!” With slavery supporter John C. Calhoun as his new Secretary of State, the Senate would not pass the treaty annexing Texas. Eventually, Tyler dropped out of the race. James K. Polk won the election, at which point both houses finally approved annexation. Tyler signed the bill annexing Texas to the United States three days before the end of his term in office. On his last day in office, March 3, 1845, Florida was admitted to the U.S. as the 27th state.
After leaving Washington, Tyler retired to his Virginia plantation that he named “Sherwood Forest.” Tyler remained out of the public eye until February 1861, when he attended the Virginia Peace Convention. Tyler’s stance on slavery and states’ rights led him to side with the Confederacy when the war began. He became a delegate to the Provisional Confederate Congress and was elected to the House of Representatives of the Confederate Congress, but died before he could take office – on January 18, 1862. Tyler’s death is marked as the only one in presidential history not mourned in Washington, due to his support of the Confederacy. He is also considered to be the only President to die outside of the U.S., as Virginia was then a part of the Confederate States of America.