Americana: Adams-Otis Treaty


The Adams-Otis Treaty of 1819 is also known as the Transcontinental Treaty, which solved two problems. Citizens of Georgia wanted the United States to purchase eastern Florida from Spain because Seminole natives frequently raided the state and then retreated to the Spanish territory. Spain wanted to establish the boundary between Mexico and the Louisiana Purchase before too many American settlers moved into the area.

John Quincy Adams, then the secretary of state for President James Monroe, negotiated the treaty with Luis de Onis of Spain. Onis was willing to sell eastern Florida due to Spain’s preoccupation with independence movements and Spain’s other colonial issues. John Q. Adams secured a boundary between the Louisiana Purchase lands and the Texas territory that was favorable to the interests of the United States; despite Luis de Onis’ initial insistence that Spain retain rights to much of the land involved. The boundary was set at the western bank of the Sabine, Red and Arkansas rivers to the Continental Divide. From that point the boundary line followed the 42nd parallel west to the Pacific Ocean. Spain also gave up all claims on the Oregon territory.

The purchase of Florida for $5 million, which was paid directly to citizens with claims against the Spanish government, assured the treaty’s popularity in the United States, but John Q. Adams establishing the western boundary as his best accomplishment. The treaty was signed and ratified in 1821.