Adams–Onís Treaty (1819)

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Adams–Onís Treaty (1819)

Adams-Onís Treaty (1819), an agreement between Spain and the United States ceding the Floridas to the latter. Also known as the Transcontinental Treaty and the Tratado de Cesión, the document was signed on 22 February 1819 by U.S. secretary of state John Quincy Adams and veteran Spanish minister to the United States Luis de Onís y Gonzáles. The key provisions of the treaty ceded all territories held by the Spanish crown in the West and East Floridas to the United States and established a "transcontinental" boundary west of the Mississippi River that allowed the United States direct access to the Pacific Ocean. The line went north from the Sabine River; west along the Red River and Arkansas River, well above Santa Fe; then north and due west at 42 latitude, into the Oregon territory claimed by both the United States and Great Britain. Spain wanted the United States to relinquish claims to Texas, which it did in Article 3. Spain also wanted the United States to withhold recognition of any Spanish American provinces that might revolt; however, such a proviso was not part of the final draft. The United States did agree to cancel up to $5 million in claims against Spanish citizens in Florida.

The U.S. Senate unanimously ratified the treaty on 24 February 1819, but the Spanish Council of State advised Ferdinand VII to send Francisco Vives to Washington to try to negotiate better terms. Nevertheless, the original version was finally approved by the U.S. Senate on 22 February 1821, and Mexico inherited Texas from Spain, "as delimited by the Transcontinental Treaty."

Negotiations between Adams and Onís were protracted, influenced strongly by a variety of considerations, including the invasion of the Florida territory by the U.S. general Andrew Jackson (1819), the intervention of the French minister Hyde de Neuville in discussions, and British-U.S. boundary disputes in the Northwest. Adams viewed the Pacific boundary as a major triumph for the United States; the historian Samuel Flagg Bemis asserts that "even without Texas the Transcontinental Treaty with Spain was the greatest diplomatic victory won by any single individual in the history of the United States."

See alsoBoundary Disputes: Overview; United States-Latin American Relations.


Philip Coolidge Brooks, Diplomacy and the Borderlands: The Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819 (1939), which contains the text of the treaty.

Samuel Flagg Bemis, John Quincy Adams and the Foundations of American Foreign Policy (1949) and John Quincy Adams and the Union (1965).

Elena Sánchez-Fabrés Mirat, Situación histórica de las Floridas en la segunda mitad del siglo XVIII (1783–1819): Los problemas de una región de frontera (1977), pp. 289-316.

                                          Linda K. Salvucci