Map of West Florida in 1763
Map of West Florida in 176
Click to enlarge

West Florida

The colonial province of West Florida existed from 1763 until 1821. Some argue it already ceased to exist in 1810, 1812, or 1819. But technically and officially, the year is 1821.

Along with Quebec, East Florida, and Grenada, West Florida was created with "distinct and separate Governments" by King George III's Royal Proclamation of 1763.

West Florida encompassed an area that is today part of the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.

The boundaries of Britain's West Florida, Spain's West Florida, and the Republic of West Florida were not identical.

As for you charming nitpickers, yes, it is true: At some point the boundaries of Britain's West Florida and Spain's West Florida were the same.

But never that of the Republic of West Florida, no part of which, by the way, is located in today's Florida. And still, the republic called itself State of Florida.

Image Above
The map above shows West Florida's original borders in 1763, which were:

- the 31st parallel in the North,

- the Gulf of Mexico in the South,

- the Apalachicola River in the East,

- and the Mississippi River / Iberville River (Bayou Manchac) in the
   West, including Lake Maurepas and Lake Pontchartrain,
   excluding New Orleans

West Florida's Timeline in a Nutshell

October 7

West Florida created by the British




British Period



September 3

Britain ceded West Florida to Spain with the Treaty of Versailles




Spanish Period



February 22

Spain ceded West Florida to the U.S., who divided it into bits, which were henceforth called part of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, respectively


Skip forward to 1763 when West Florida was created, or let's start from the top for a little bit of Floridian background:

The first European on record to visit Florida with consequences was Spanish explorer and Columbus' former travel buddy Juan Ponce de León, who lived 1460-1521. Setting sail from Puerto Rico, he arrived on Florida's east coast in April 1513 somewhere between today's St. Augustine and Melbourne Beach. Apparently it was then and there that he named the land Florida.

Here's a French map of what happened next:

La Floride (La Florida) 1657
La Floride (La Florida) 1657
Map by Nicolas Sanson of Abbeville, France, who lived 1600-1667
Florida Department of State


And why did the French have a contemporary map of Florida? Because they too were enormously busy sticking their flags into North American soil. So much so that it amounted to this:

Map of North America Before the 1763 Treaty of Paris
Map of North America Before the 1763 Treaty of Paris
Library of Congress


Let's zoom in on the future West Florida. Here, the French and the Spanish met at the Perdido River:

Map of the Southern Colonies, 1607-1760
Illustrating dates of permanent settlements: Biloxi 1699 (French),
Mobile 1710 (French), Pensacola 1696 (Spanish)
(Fort Louis de la Mobile was built upriver from present-day Mobile in 1702.)
Click to enlarge


But the Perdido River was a contested border between the two empires. For example, Pensacola was in French hands from 1719 until 1722, after which it was restored to Spain.

For this, the War of the Quadruple Alliance was partly to blame.


In 1754, the French and Indian War broke out. It would last until 1763 and would shuffle North American land ownership quite a bit.

On November 3, 1762, just before the end of the war, the secret Treaty of Fontainebleau was signed. In it, France ceded to Spain all of Louisiana west of the Mississippi River, including New Orleans.


The Seven Years' War, and with it its North American extension, the French and Indian War, ended with the 1763 Treaty of Paris, signed on February 10, 1763, to be exact.

Complying with this treaty, Britain gained Canada from the French, and restored Cuba (which it had been captured in August 1762) to Spain. Spain in turn ceded Florida to Britain, ending the so-called First Spanish Period, and now the map looked as follows:

Map of North America After the 1763 Treaty of Paris
Map of North America After the 1763 Treaty of Paris

Treaty of Paris 1763
Please note: New Orleans is incorrectly shown as British.
See more
Library of Congress


Florida's exact western border was according to the treaty:

... a line drawn along the middle of the River Mississippi, from its source to the river Iberville, and from thence, by a line drawn along the middle of this river, and the lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain to the sea; ...

... except the town of New Orleans and the island in which it is situated, which shall remain to France, provided that the navigation of the river Mississippi shall be equally free, as well to the subjects of Great Britain as to those of France ...

Treaty of Paris 1763, Transcript, The Avalon Project

Or, as illustrated on the map at the top of the page.

On August 5 and 6, 1763, the third battalion of the British Royal American Regiment, led by Lieutenant Colonel Augustin Prevost, arrived at Pensacola. He met at once with former Spanish Governor Don Diego Ortiz Parrilla, who had orders to surrender immediately and to evacuate as soon as possible.

This Spanish evacuation was on its way one month later when 800 people left Pensacola for Havana and Vera Cruz. Approx. 700 sturdy French residents in and around Mobile stayed put.

Prevost didn't waste any time to complain about the general mess he found himself surrounded by, which, according to his own assessment, was unquestionably caused by the "insufferable laziness of the Spaniards."


West Florida Created

By means of the Royal Proclamation of 1763, signed on October 7, 1763, the new owner Britain divided Florida at the Apalachicola River into East Florida and West Florida, and drew the northern border of West Florida at 31° latitude. Here are the exact words from the proclamation:

Thirdly — The Government of West Florida, bounded to the Southward by the Gulph of Mexico, including all Islands within Six Leagues* of the Coast, from the River Apalachicola to Lake Pontchartrain; to the Westward by the said Lake, the Lake Maurepas, and the River Mississippi; to the Northward by a Line drawn due East from that part of the River Mississippi which lies in 31 Degrees North Latitude, to the River Apalachicola or Chatahouchee; and to the Eastward by the said River.

* 1 marine league = 3 nautical miles

And then: 1 nautical mile = 1.15 mile or 1.852 km

Therefore: 6 leagues = 18 nautical miles = 20.714 miles or 33.336 km

And here's the entire map:

Map of the Floridas: East and West Florida 1763
The Floridas - East and West Florida 1763

Click to enlarge


This northern border was soon revised.

On March 23, 1764, the bright people of the British Board of Trade, i.e. the gentlemen Hillsborough, Soame Jenyns, Ed. Elliott, Geo. Rice, Orwell, Bam. Gascoyne, recommended

"to the King's most excellent majesty"

to raise the northern boundary of West Florida from currently at 31 degrees latitude to

"a line drawn from the mouth of the river Yasous [Yazoo], where it unites with the Mississippi, due east to the river Apalachicola."

Why on earth?


"it appears from observations and surveys, made since the said province has been in your majesty's possession, that there are not only very considerable settlements upon the east bank of the Mississippi above that line, but also that the town and settlement of Mobile itself is some miles to the north of it."

On June 6, 1764, the extension of West Florida went into effect

"by other our letters patent under our great seal of Great Britain, dated at Westminster, the sixth day of June."

This was the West Florida Supplementary Commission, June, 1764, to be found in W.L. Grant and James Munro (editors), Acts of the Privy Council of England, Colonial Series, 1613-1783 (6 volumes; London, 1908-12), this is volume IV, page 668.

The Choctaw recognized this new boundary with their treaty of March 26, 1765, agreed at Mobile. The Creeks with their treaty of May 26, 1765, agreed at Pensacola. Here is a map of the Indian tribes in the area:

Map of the Indian Tribes in the Mississippi Valley
Map of the Indian Tribes in the Mississippi Valley
Library of Congress

In other words, Britain extended their West Florida territory to the north and added the area between the parallels at 31° and 32° 28' North.

( Go here for more about Units of Longitude and Latitude.)

This new northern border remained in effect for the rest of the British occupation, i.e. until 1783.

Here are the maps:

West Florida at Its Largest Extent: 1764-1783
West Florida at Its Largest Extent: 1764-1783
Click to enlarge


British West Florida and Indian Nations
British West Florida and Indian Nations
Illustrating: Chicksaw Nation, Chicksaw Line, Choctaw,
Cherokee Nation, Creek Nation, Choctaw Line,
Northern Line of British West Florida in 1763 and in 1767 (actually 1764),
30 to 35 degrees latitude
Mississippi Historical Society


British West Florida 1763-1783
British West Florida 1763-1783
Illustrating: Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creeks,
Boundary Established by Proclamation of 1763,
Boundary Established by Supplementary Commission of 1764 to Governor Johnstone
Lucia Porcher Johnson / Mississippi Historical Society


:: What was the real reason for this extension?

By his royal proclamation, George III had made clear that the land in question was reserved for the Indians. Settlements were prohibited. Here is the sound bite:

And We do further strictly enjoin and require all Persons whatever who have either willfully or inadvertently seated themselves upon any Lands within the Countries above described or upon any other Lands which, not having been ceded to or purchased by Us, are still reserved to the said Indians as aforesaid, forthwith to remove themselves from such Settlements.

According to Clarence E. Carter in Some Aspects of British Administration in West Florida, the reason for violating the royal instructions was simple, it was "land fever."

In fact, the lords of the Board of Trade themselves were suffering from it badly. On June 5, 1764, one day before the new border became official, they recommended several land grants that were located north of the 31st parallel, thus beating everyone to the punch.


:: 1764 or 1767 ?

Why do some maps and sources say that this change of West Florida's northern border took place in 1767 or even 1770 instead of 1764?

Back to Clarence E. Carter's work, page 366, where he explains that,

This view is based in part upon an extract from the commission of Governor Eliot (1767), published in American State Papers; Public Lands, 1:57, in which the old boundary of the thirty-first parallel is described. The complete document describes the revised boundary.


Once and for all, this will help us out:

"Boundaries of West Florida on the 25th of January, 1770, the same as on the 6th of June, 1764."

This is a margin annotation from the Laws of the United States of America ... and many other valuable ordinances and documents with copious notes and references, Vol I of V; published in 1815 by Bioren, Duane, and Weightman.

Here are pages page 449-452:



Now that we're clear on the year of the border extension, back to the West Florida government.

On October 21, 1764, the first civil governor of West Florida, George Johnstone, arrived at Pensacola. The military administration could retire.

George Johnstone, who lived 1730–1787, First Governor of British West Florida
George Johnstone, who lived 1730–1787
First Governor of British West Florida
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory


But it still took until 1766 until West Florida had an elected assembly.

Johnstone, by the way, was recalled in 1767.


1775-1783 American Revolution
Apart from Canada, East and West Florida were the only provinces that remained loyal to Britain during the American Revolution (1775-1783). Spain finally made its support for the Colonies official when Spanish King Charles III declared war on Britain on June 21, 1779.

Thus, West Florida saw action in the later years of the American Revolution.

On August 27, 1779, Spanish troops led by 33-year-old governor of Spanish Louisiana, Colonel Don Bernardo de Gálvez, departed from New Orleans.

On September 7, 1779, Galvez' troops captured Fort Bute (at the British village Manchac, not today's Manchac south of Ponchatoula), where the British had left only a small garrison because they judged the fort indefensible. Instead they decided to retreat to Baton Rouge.

On September 21, 1779, the Spanish overpowered the British, led by Alexander Dickson, at Baton Rouge. This was the Battle of Fort New Richmond. Fort New Richmond, by the way, was a makeshift fort, built with permission of the owners on the grounds of the Watts and Flowers plantation on July 30, 1779. It was also called the Baton Rouge Redoubt.

At Baton Rouge, Galvez not only demanded the surrender of Dickson's men there, but, efficiently, also of those at Fort Panmure at Natchez. On October 5, 1779, Spain's Captain Juan Delavillebeuvre was on location and accepted British Captain Anthony Forster's surrender without incident.

On March 14, 1780, the Spanish defeated the British and captured Fort Charlotte (formerly French Fort Conde) in today's downtown Mobile (Movila), Alabama. This was the Battle of Fort Charlotte, and it took place March 10-14, 1780. The Spanish renamed it Fort Carlotta.

Elias Durnford, surveyor general, former interim governor, and British commander of the fort that surrendered to the Spanish, gave "the number by return of killed, wounded, and prisoners, 304."

The British attempted to retake the fort on January 7, 1781, but were defeated once again, and the ones who didn't get killed retreated for a second time to Pensacola.

Then, on May 9, 1781, the Spanish took West Florida's capital, Pensacola (Panzacola). See also
Siege of Pensacola.

British West Florida was now in Spanish hands.

Spanish Governor of Louisiana Bernardo de Galvez, ousting the British from West Florida
Spanish Governor of Louisiana Bernardo de Galvez
Ousting the British from West Florida,
thereby commencing the so-called Second Spanish Period

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

These Spanish victories were achieved under Bernardo de Gálvez, whom, for assisting in the fight against the British, the Americans made posthumously an honorary U.S. citizen in December 2014.


Concluding the American Revolution with the 1783 Peace of Paris, Britain returned the Floridas to Spain, who kept the division between La Florida Occidental (West Florida) and La Florida Oriental (East Florida). To be exact, this was the Treaty of Versailles.

Spain figured that West Florida's northern border was the way it had been since 1764. The U.S. begged to differ and claimed the land all the way down to 31° latitude. This is the beginning of the West Florida Controversy.

This dispute remained unresolved until 1795.

West Florida Underneath Disputed Area in Green: 1783-1795
West Florida Underneath Disputed Area in Green: 1783-1795
Click to enlarge


Settling the dispute over the northern part of West Florida, on October 27, 1795, the U.S. and Spain signed the Treaty of San Lorenzo, also called Pinckney’s Treaty, named after the American diplomat Thomas Pinckney who brokered and signed the deal. Via this treaty Spain agreed to relinquish the disputed area, which included the Natchez District.

However, the Spanish were in no hurry to evacuate. This, in combination with poor American diplomatic conduct, resulted in two more years of Spanish activity in the region.

In March 1798, the Spanish finally decided to pack their bags. On April 7, 1798, the U.S. shut the door behind them and created the Mississippi Territory, which looked as follows:

West Florida Underneath Mississippi Territory: 1798-1810
West Florida Underneath Mississippi Territory: 1798-1810
Click to enlarge

This also meant that West Florida had once again its map shape from 1763 to 1764.

Here is another map for the year 1802, looking a little itchy, but it shows the 31st to the 35th parallel on the left (barely, but still):

Map of the 1802 Georgia Cession
Map of the 1802 Georgia Cession
Illustrating the Mississippi Territory, organized in 1798,
Spanish West Florida, and the Spanish-U.S. Border at 31st parallel

Nathan H. Glick pen and ink drawings / Alabama Department of Archives and History


In the meantime, Napoleon had Spain convinced to retrocede Louisiana to France. This was the
Treaty of San Ildefonso (October 1, 1800) and the Convention of Aranjuez (March 21, 1801).

In 1803, the U.S. obtained the Louisiana Territory from the French (see Louisiana Purchase.)

In the West Florida Revolt of 1810, part of Spanish West Florida rose up and declared themselves the independent Republic of West Florida. The magic lasted for 74 days, from September 26 to December 8, 1810.

The Republic of West Florida reached from the Mississippi to the Pearl River (River of Pearls). Here is the map:

Border Line of the Republic of West Florida 1810
Border Line of the Republic of West Florida 1810
Click to enlarge


Here is a map of the area enlarged:

History Map of West Florida in 1810: The District of Baton Rouge
West Florida 1810: The District of Baton Rouge
Click to enlarge

And this is the same area on a different map:

Map of Western West Florida 1810
Western West Florida 1810
Click to enlarge


On October 27, 1810, U.S. President Madison issued a declaration proclaiming West Florida from the Mississippi, not only to the Pearl River, but all the way to the Perdido River, U.S. territory.

And just in case you were wondering, West Florida's absorption by the United States will be completed in 1819, and all the papers will be in order by 1821.

On December 8, 1810, U.S. troops, led by the governor of Orleans Territory William C.C. Claiborne, arrived at the Republic's capital, St. Francisville, located just above Baton Rouge. President Madison's proclamation was read to the public, the Republic's flag was ordered to be lowered, and the U.S. flag was hoisted in its stead. Done. Annexed.

Spain looked on but did not have the muscle to interfere, a fact that Madison had well pondered. Why was Spain weak? Napoleon.

See more under Background of the West Florida Revolt.

So, by the end of the year 1810, the U.S. had occupied the region of the former Republic of West Florida, and additionally claimed the area all the way to the Perdido River:

U.S. Claims in West Florida: End of 1810
Click to enlarge


In other words:

More Than Half of West Florida Claimed by the U.S.: 1810
More Than Half of West Florida Claimed by the U.S.: December 1810
Claimed, in green, but not yet all of it occupied.
Also illustrated here is the 1804 extension of the Mississippi Territory.
Its northern border was raised to the Tennessee state line.

Click to enlarge


The following text is from November 20, 1811, legislation from the 12th Congress, 1st session, Number 296:

A petition by the inhabitants of West Florida asking for the annexation of West Florida to the Mississippi Territory

The petition is signed "George Patterson and 410 others" who were afraid that the U.S. would "either continue us a separate territory, or attach us to the Territory of New Orleans, instead of incorporating us with the Mississippi Territory."

The link will take you to the State Library of Louisiana.


On April 8, 1812, Congress declared Louisiana (Orleans Territory) one of the United States of America, effective April 30, 1812.

On April 14, 1812, Congress added to the state of Louisiana the Florida Parishes, which is the land between the Mississippi and Pearl River, the area that had been briefly a republic in 1810.

On May 14, 1812, the middle part of West Florida, from the Pearl River to the Perdido River, was added to the Territory of Mississippi.

On June 18, 1812, U.S. President James Madison signed the declaration of war against Great Britain. The War of 1812 had begun. It would last until February 1815.


On April 12, 1813, U.S. forces, led by James Wilkinson, seized Mobile. The Spanish evacuated the town on April 15, 1813.

And thus, the green bit of West Florida on the above map was now not only claimed but also occupied by the U.S.


The War of 1812 (United States vs. Great Britain) raged on and reached West Florida.

On September 14 and 15, 1814, the British attempted to take Fort Bowyer on the Mobile Point peninsula, overlooking Mobile Bay, but the fort was able to defend itself.

On November 7, 1814, U.S. Major General Andrew Jackson and his men invaded Pensacola, and then retreated to Mobile where he waited for the British attack. When it didn't materialize, Jackson rightly concluded that Britain's next target was not Mobile, but New Orleans.

The Battle of New Orleans was fought on January 8, 1815.

Mobile, however, was still on the British wish list. On February 11, 1815, and this time with overwhelming force, the British took Fort Bowyer. This was the last battle of the War of 1812, before it ended on February 17, 1815.

It seemed that Spain, preoccupied and enfeebled by the
Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), just looked on as foreign troops came and went as it pleased them.


On November 30, 1817, the Apalachicola Massacre, also called the Scott Massacre, triggered the First Seminole War, which in turn triggered Andrew Jackson's raid against escaped slaves, the Seminoles, and the Spanish alike.

In May 1818, Jackson took Pensacola again, this time for good.

Colonel William King was the civil and military governor of the Province of West Florida from May 26, 1818 until February 4, 1819.

1819 - Today
On February 22, 1819, and after lengthy negotiations, the Transcontinental Treaty was signed.

Who signed?

John Quincy Adams for the U.S. and Luis De Onís for Spain. By means of this treaty, Spain ceded East and West Florida to the U.S. and gained Texas.

The agreement is also called the Adams-Onis Treaty or the Purchase of Florida.


The Floridas Entirely in American Hands: 1819
The Floridas Entirely in American Hands: 1819
Spain gets Texas to California.
Click to enlarge


The exchange of ratifications of the 1819 treaty was completed on February 22, 1821.

On March 10, 1821, President Monroe made Major General Andrew Jackson Commissioner of the United States and invested Jackson with "full powers."

On July 10, 1821, at St. Augustine, East Florida, Robert Butler formally received the province from José Coppinger, the last Spanish governor of East Florida.

On July 17, 1821, the formal exchange of flags took place at Pensacola between the last Spanish governor of West Florida, Jose Callava, and Andrew Jackson.

Jackson delivered a brief speech, here is an excerpt:

I have, therefore, thought fit to issue this my proclamation, making known the premises, and to declare that the government heretofore exercised over the said provinces, under the authority of Spain, has ceased, and that that of the United States of America is established over the same; that the inhabitants thereof will be incorporated in the Union of the United States as soon as may be consistent with the principles of the Federal Constitution, and admitted to the enjoyment of all the privileges, rights, and immunities of the citizens of the United States [etc.]


And an almost melancholy Thomas Corwin Donaldson comments

And thus the banner of Spain, which was first raised in Florida April 8, 1512, giving place temporarily to the English from 1736 to 1783, was on the 10th and 17th of July, 1821, after a period of about three hundred and eight years, replaced by the flag of the United States.

The Public Domain—Its History, with Statistics, page 119


Pensacola's fine citizens commemorated this event by placing a bust of Jackson in their Plaza Ferdinand VII, with an inscription that reads:

In this plaza General Andrew Jackson received West Florida from Spain and raised the flag of the U.S. July 17, 1821


Back to 1821.

Jackson resigned his post, and William Pope Duval, a United States judge, became governor of the Territory of Florida in 1822.

Florida was a U.S. Territory until 1845.

On March 3, 1845, Florida became the 27th state to join the Union.

So far the timeline.


What Was the Capital of West Florida?

The capital of both, British and Spanish West Florida was Pensacola.

St. Augustine was the capital of both, British and Spanish East Florida.


What Was the Capital of the Republic of West Florida?

The capital of the Republic of West Florida was St. Francisville, located 30 miles north of Baton Rouge in today's Louisiana.

The Republic of West Florida existed from September 23 to December 10, 1810. St. Francisville was a capital for 74 days.

You can actually click this thing


How Many People Lived in West Florida?

Right before the Spanish evacuated in 1763, Pensacola had a population of less than 800 people. This number included the Spanish soldiers and officials, their families and staff, and more than a hundred convicts. Regular civilians (men, women, children) totaled only slightly more than a hundred.

Thus, when the British took over in 1763, they inherited the small village of Pensacola with approx. 100 hut like dwellings encircled by a stockade.

The same year, approx. 28,000 Native Americans far outnumbered European settlers. Consequently, British West Florida's main challenges were to keep peace with the Natives and to attract settlers. In fact, right after his arrival, West Florida's first governor George Johnstone sent Lieutenant Alexander Maclellan to New Orleans to encourage residents of southern Louisiana to move to West Florida. The result of this campaign was not overwhelming.

A big problem were forsaken lots belonging to "absentee landlords", i.e. rich Europeans who bought land only to speculate, without any intention to settle or cultivate it.

In 1766, Governor Johnstone estimated the total colonial population of West Florida to be about 1,800 to 2,000.

In 1768, Pensacola had 200 houses, which were arranged according to the lots in surveyor Elias Durnford's new town plan. These lots were 80 by 160 feet plus attached garden lot, and they had been allocated free of charge. But you had to build a brick chimney within two years and pay 6 English pence per annum.

In 1774, the same Elias Durnford estimated the population between the Mississippi and the Iberville and Yazoo Rivers at 2,500 white and 600 black.

In 1785, there were approx. 3,660 European settlers in West Florida.

By 1795, this number had grown to approx. 8,390 European settlers in West Florida.

But by 1798, it got reduced again by approx. 50 % because of the territory loss negotiated in Treaty of San Lorenzo.


What Indian Nations Lived in West Florida?

The Chickasaw, the Choctaw, and the Creek (Seminole.)


What is the West Florida Controversy?

A land dispute between the United States and Spain.

The West Florida Controversy can be divided into two chapters:

Dispute over the area between the parallels 31° and 32° 28' North, solved on October 27, 1795, by the Treaty of San Lorenzo.

Dispute over the area from the Gulf of Mexico to the 31st parallel, from the Mississippi River to the Perdido River, claimed by the U.S. in October 1810, who backdated their claim to 1803 (see
Louisiana Purchase).

The West Florida Controversy ended in 1821 with the ratification of the Adams-Onis Treaty, also called the Transcontinental Treaty.


The History of West Florida in a Nutshell

Handy all in one map:

Map Illustrating the Acquisition of West Florida 1767-1819
Acquisition of West Florida 1767-1819
Click to enlarge


More Maps

West Florida 1810: The District of Mobile
West Florida 1810: District of Mobile
Click to enlarge


More West Florida

Go here for a complete list of all British and Spanish governors of West Florida as well as main events during their governorship.


A Nerd's Delight

Go here for the
Florida Statues, Volume III, an archived PDF file from 1941, published by the State of Florida. Process Verbal at Pensacola on July 17, 1821, is on page 111. Thank me later.

Or, should this link forsake you, heaven forbid, kick back with the Acts of the Legislative council of the Territory of Florida together with the Treaty of Cession, Governor Jackson's Ordinances, the Act of Congress organizing the Territorial Government, Constitutions of the United States, Spanish regulations for the allotment of lands etc., kindly provided by the George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida. You will find Pensacola's process verbal on page XII.




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