His Catholic Majesty cedes... East and West Florida - Adams-Onis Treaty 1819 - Photo Copyright Daniel Brice
"His Catholic Majesty cedes... East and West Florida"


Adams-Onis Treaty 1819

The Adams-Onís Treaty is also called the Transcontinental Treaty, or the Purchase of Florida.

This is the main article.

Go here for the
English transcript

And here for the
Spanish Transcript



Image Above

Adams-Onis Treaty

Photo copyright Daniel Brice


The actual title on the document reads

"Treaty of Amity, Settlement, and Limits, between the United States of America, and His Catholic Majesty."


Who Signed?

John Quincy Adams for the United States
President James Monroe


Luis de Onís for Spain
under King Ferdinand VII

And these two negotiated their salaries' worth. Here is a
peek into their negotiations.

John Quincy Adams, U.S. Secretary of State 1817-1825
John Quincy Adams
U.S. Secretary of State 1817-1825
Library of Congress

James Monroe, U.S. President 1817-1825
James Monroe
U.S. President 1817-1825
Library of Congress
Ferdinand VII, King of Spain 1808, 1814-1833
Ferdinand VII
King of Spain 1808, 1814-1833
Painting by Goya
Luis de Onís, Spanish minister to the U.S. 1815-1820
Luis de Onís
Spanish minister to the U.S. 1815-1820


What Was Agreed Upon?

The U.S. agreed to pay up to five million dollars to U.S. citizens who demanded compensation for loss or damage of property from Spain.

Spain ceded East and West Florida and renounced claims on Oregon Country. The U.S. renounced all claims on Texas and then some.

This is the map:

U.S. Expansion: The Map in 1820 - After the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819
U.S. Expansion: The Map in 1820
Illustrating: Title to Red River Basin established by treaty with Great Britain.
Florida ceded by Spain (Florida Cession 1819).
Oregon Country under join U.S.-British occupation 1818-1846.
Spanish Treaty Line of 1819.
Missouri organized a State government in 1820.
Click to enlarge (huge map)


Thanks to Spain's waiver of its claims on Oregon Country, the United States stretched now uncontested across the continent from coast to coast. Hence, this is also called the Transcontinental Treaty.

Direct access to the Pacific was valuable in many ways, one example being new opportunities of commerce with Asia.

And here are
more maps that illustrate the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819.


When Was the Treaty Signed?

Adams and Onis signed at Washington D.C. on February 22, 1819.


When Was It Ratified?

:: United States
Unanimous Senate approval (34 Yea and 8 not voting) on February 24, 1819. The President signed the same day.

:: Spain
Spain's King Ferdinand VII and his Secretary Fernando Evaristo Perez de Castro signed and countersigned at Madrid on October 24, 1820.

But according to the treaty, the deadline for final ratification was August 22, 1819. What on earth took Spain so long?

Spain dragged its feet for mainly two reasons:

1. land grants


2. Rio de la Plata


To 1: Land Grants
After agreeing during pre-negotiations to the sale of the Floridas, Spanish King Ferdinand VII awarded Floridian land as a gift to some of his loyal servants. These land grants were massive.

("Principal Grantees" were: the Duke of Alagon, Captain of the Body Guards; the Count of Punon Rostro, one of his Chamberlains; and Don Pedro de Vargas, Treasurer of the Royal Household)

On a scale from sneaky to offensive, U.S. diplomats pinned Ferdinand's behavior more to the right. This was unacceptable because, so they argued, it wasn't his to give at this point.

Moreover, one of the treaty's stipulations was that the United States would take care of $5 million of claims against Spain. This budget hole was to be balanced with the proceeds of sales of territory in the newly acquired Floridas. In other words, Spain had just helped itself to a big chunk of the U.S. budget.

So, Spain wanted U.S. recognition of these land grants included in the treaty.

To 2: Rio de la Plata

But according to a private
letter from John Forsyth (U.S. Minister to Spain) to Adams from August 22, 1819, "the affair of the grants" wasn't the only reason why Spain hesitated to ratify.

According to the letter, Spain also wanted "to procure an assurance that we will not recognize Buenos Ayres."

The Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata or Buenos Ayres was a Spanish colony on the brink of independence.

Here is the map:

Viceroyalty of Buenos Ayres or La Plata, Map of South America About 1790
Viceroyalty of Buenos Ayres or La Plata
Map of South America About 1790
Click to enlarge


The Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) had exhausted Spain to such a degree that it rendered the Spanish virtually powerless in their colonies.

These former dependencies now sought to reorganize themselves independently, which included putting themselves on the political map by reaching out to the rest of the world via diplomatic ties.

So, the second reason Spain hesitated to ratify, was that it would have liked very much if the U.S. would obligate itself not to acknowledge any of these independence seeking colonies.

... which seems like an odd thing to ask from the United States, considering that they themselves had just recently unshackled itself from their colonial overlords, and furthermore, considering that by this very treaty Spain clearly demonstrated that it was too weak to prevent the breaking away of parts of its former colonies, i.e. the Floridas.

Spain eventually realized that none of these desired amendments had a chance to become part of the treaty.

Finally, as mentioned above, Spain ratified on October 24, 1820, which according to the Treaty was too late.

The present treaty shall be ratified in due form, by the contracting parties, and the ratifications shall be exchanged in six months from this time, or sooner if possible.

Thus, Ferdinand included in his ratification:

" ... and that the circumstance of having exceeded the term of six months, fixed for the exchange of the ratifications in the 16th article may afford no obstacle in any manner; it is my deliberate will that the present ratification be as valid and firm and produce the same effects as if it had been done within the determined period."


:: United States
Legally, the United States had to re-ratify this treaty. The United States Senate
voted again on February 19, 1821, and this time around it wasn't unanimous, but it still passed with 40 to 4, and 2 abstaining. Nay voted:

Richard Johnson, KY

James Brown, LA

William Trimble, OH

John Williams, TN

U.S. president James Monroe signed on February 22, 1821.

:: Exchange of Ratifications
On the same day, February 22, 1821, ratifications were exchanged at Washington between John Quincy Adams and General Don Francisco Dionisio Vives, Spain's Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary.


Did the United States Pay Spain Five Million Dollars for Florida?


The United States, exonerating Spain from all demands in future, on account of the claims of their citizens to which the renunciations herein contained extend, and considering them entirely cancelled, undertake to make satisfaction for the same, to an amount not exceeding five millions of dollars. 

American citizens demanded compensation from Spain. The U.S. took over this responsibility and cleared Spain from all involvement in these matters.

Now these U.S. citizens had to bring their damage claims before their own government, which promised payment of up to $5 million in total.

How was this article implemented?

On December 21, 1821, President James Monroe nominated to the Senate, which consented the same day, The Commission Under the 11th Article of the Treaty of Amity, Settlement, and Limits, Between the United States and his Catholic Majesty, aka the Commissioners on the Florida Treaty.

These three commissioners were:

Hugh Lawson White, of Tennessee

William King, of Maine

Littleton Waller Tazewell, of Virginia

Secretary to the Commission was:

Tobias Watkins, of Maryland

And Clerk to the Commission was:

Joseph Forrest, of the District of Columbia


This Commission sieved through all the claims that were brought before them and verified their validity. But the sum total, without having figured interest into it, exceeded the $5 million mark.

It was therefore decided that nobody received interest, and all claims were only 91 2/3 % reimbursed. Thus, the exact amount of $5 million was spent.

The Commission was pleased with their work and disbanded on June 8, 1824.


Is the Adams-Onis Treaty Still in Force?

No. The Adams-Onis Treaty ceased to be operative on April 14, 1903, when the

Treaty of Friendship and General Relations
the United States of America and Spain

came into force. How so?

Here is its Article 29:

All treaties, agreements, conventions and contracts between the United States and Spain prior to the Treaty of Paris* shall be expressly abrogated and annulled, with the exception of the Treaty signed the seventeenth of February 1834 between the two countries for the settlement of claims between the United States of America and the Government of His Catholic Majesty, which is continued in force by the present Convention.

* This Treaty of Paris was the
Treaty of Paris of 1898 which ended the Spanish-American War.

And here you can check all treaties currently in force.



More Maps That Illustrate the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819

Map of the Treaty with Spain 1819
United States: Treaty With Spain 1819
Treaty Line of 1819


Mexico 1786 - 1821
1786 - 1821 Mexico
The Viceroyalty of New Spain, 1786-1821


US Expansion 01
US Expansion 02
US Expansion 03
United States 1783-1854 Expansion
Three historical maps of the Expansion of the United States 1783-1854


United States Expansion
United States 1783-1907 Expansion
Map of the Expansion of the United States 1783-1907


The States Access the Union - Map
United States 1788-1959 - The States Access the Union
Year of entrance into the Union, territorial acquisitions


United States - Exploration and Settlement 1800-1820
United States 1800-1820 Exploration and Settlement
Not the treaty, but: Urban center, 1820
Extent of settled area, 1820


Territorial Expansion of the United States since 1803. Insets: Alaska. Hawaii. Guam. Samoa Islands. Wake Island. Midway Island. Porto Rico. The Philippine Islands.
United States 1803 Expansion
Spanish treaty line of 1819


Organization of Territories in the United States since 1803. I.1803-1810, II.1810-1835, III.1835-1855, IV.Since 1855.
United States 1803 Organization of Territories
Extension of the Treaty Line of 1819 beyond the Rocky Mountains



Map United States 1815-1845: Westward Expansion, American Forts, 1819 Treaty Line
United States 1815-1845: Westward Expansion
American Forts, 1819 Treaty Line


And here are the United States' territorial acquisitions simplified and in a nutshell:

Map of the United States: Territorial Acquisitions
Map of the United States: Territorial Acquisitions
Humboldt State University



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