The Treaty of Moultrie Creek

Shortly after Florida became American territory, the conflict between the United States and the Seminole began to escalate. In 1823, the United States and the Seminole entered into an agreement known as the Treaty of Moultrie Creek.

The treaty was intended to ease the conflict and to establish what land would be inhabited by each. It proposed that the Seminole must relocate to a four-million-acre reservation located in the middle of the state. Per the treaty, the United States would afford the Seminole protection, husbandry, livestock and an annual sum of five thousand dollars. The treaty also promised them an agent, interpreter, blacksmith and a school. In return, the Seminole must relinquish all claims to any other land they had previously occupied in Florida, assist in the capturing and returning of run-away slaves or fugitives, and allow roads to be built for occasional passage by others through the reservation.

The Treaty of Moultrie Creek was not a good deal for the Seminole. The lands the Seminole had previously occupied were prized by American settlers, not only for their superior agricultural potential, but because the lands and fields were already established by the Seminole as their own farms and ranches and thus were lands proven to be fertile and productive. The newly proposed reservation would yield areas that were not prepared nor suitable for farming and agriculture. The centralized location of the new reservation also cut the Seminole off from the coasts. This would prevent further trade with the Spanish and English which would include weapons trading.

The treaty was a contentious attempt to quell the Seminole, who had already lost so much since the beginning of the war in 1816. The signing of the treaty took place at Moultrie Creek located south of St. Augustine. Neamathla, a prominent Mikasuki Chief, was chosen to speak for many of the Seminole people. Some Seminole leaders, including Neamathla, signed the treaty. Others refused, and there was general disagreement within the tribe about whether those who signed were a voice for all.

Regardless, the treaty was ratified in 1823 and shortly thereafter was broken by both sides. Many Seminole refused to move to the reservation. Americans began moving onto the land the Seminole had not yet left and often even encroached on the land that had been promised them on the reservation. The United States would continue to build forts and military outposts along the coast and areas surrounding the reservation to manage the conflicts. The Seminole struggled to survive on the land reserved for them as it was unsuitable for agriculture and farming. This led to starvation and eventually death for some and forced the Seminole to encroach outside the reservation to survive.

The treaty remained a point of contention unitl 1830, when it was permanently discarded by the Indian Removal Act.

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