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Governmental Organization and Records System

    Florida was ceded to the United States by Spain on February 22, 1819.  The treaty of cession was ratified February 10, 1821, and proclaimed February 22, 1821.  The second article of the treaty recites that,  "His Catholic Majesty cedes to the United States in full property and sovereignty, all the territories which belong to him, situated to the eastward of the Mississippi, known by the name of East and West Florida.  The adjacent islands dependent on said provinces, all public lots and squares, vacant lands, public edifices, fortifications, barracks, and other buildings, which are not private proeprty, archives, and documents, which relate directly to the property and sovereignty of said provinces, are included in this article.  The said archives and couments shall be left in possession of the commissaries or officers of the United States, duly authorized to receive them."

    Pursuant to an act of Congress passed on March 3, 1821, President James Monroe, on March 10, 1821, issued to Major General Andrew Jackson, of Tennessee, a commission authorizing him as Commissioner of the United States, "to take possession of and occupy the territories ceded by Spain to the United States."  President Monroe on the same day also issued a commission to Jackson as governor of East and West Florida.  A third commission was issued to jim on March 20, 1821, with accompanying instructions, vesting him with special and extraordinary powers; conformable to the treaty and the act of Congress carrying the treaty into execution.  In accordance with the authority given by his commission and with instructions from the State Department, at Washington, General Jackson designated Colonel Robert Butler to receive East Florida from Spain, which was done by appropriate ceremonies and proclamation on July 10, 1821, at St. Augustine, Florida.  On July 17, 1821, at Pensacolar, Florida, General Jackson with due formality and proclamation received West Florida from Spain, and upon an exchange of flags made due proclamation "that the government heretofore exercised over the said provinces nder the authority of Spain, had ceased, and that that of the United States of America is established over the same," ("Historical (Preface)", by Hon. James B. Whitfield, justice of the supreme court of Florida and member of the compilation commission, C. G. L., Fla., 1927, pp. 2, 3-4.)

    General Jackson established in the ceded territory by executive ordinances a form of civil government with administrative and judicial regulations and officers, and by an ordinance dated July 21, 1821, divided East and West Florida into two counties, Escambia extended between the Perdido and Suwannee Rivers, and St. Johns, including all the territory of East Florida lying east of the Suwannee River.  (Id., p. 4).  On March 30, 1822, Congress provided:  "That all the territory ceded by Spain to the United States, known by the name of East and West Florida, shall constitute a territory of the United States under the name of the Territory of Florida, the government whereof shall be organized and administered" as provided in the act establishing the Territory.  In 1829, the Legislative Council of the Territory was made elective from the counties of the Territory.  (Id., p. 5.)

    The first Legislative Council met in Pensacola on the second Monday in June 1822.  On August 12, 1822, the Council passed an act providing that the Territory should be divided into four counties, two in West Florida, to be called Escambia and Jackson, and two in East Florida to be called Duval and St. Johns.  (Id. pp. 8, 28.)

    The treaty ceding the Floridas to the United States provided that the inhabitants of the ceded territories "shall be incorporated into the Union of the United States, as soon as may be consistent with the Federal constitution, and admitted to the enjoyment of all the privileges, rights, and immunities of the citizens of the United States."  In order to accomplish this purpose a convention met at St. Joseph on December 3, 1838, and on January 11, 1839, proclaimed the Constitution of 1838.  (Id., p. 11.)  However, the admission of Florida into the Union as a state was deferred by the Congress until 1845.  On January 27 of that year the Territorial Legislature adopted a resolution to be presented to Congress urging that Florida "be brought into the Union as an independent and sovereign State, at the same time that Iowa shall be admitted."  By a single act of Congress approved March 3, 1845, Iowa and Florida were "admitted into the Union on equal footing within the original States in all respects whatsoever."  (Id., p. 12.)

    Florida withdrew from the Union on January 10, 1861, and set up a government under a constitution adopted at that time.  At the conclusion of the War between the States, the government of the state was under the Federal ilitary authority.  A third constitution was adopted in 1865 by a convention which repealed the Ordinance of Secession of January 10, 1861.  (Id., p. 11.)  The Constitution of 1868, adopted under the Presidential plan of reorganizing the southern tates, was not satisfactory to Congress.  Therefore, another convention was held on January 20, 1868, and, on February 25, 1868, this convention proclaimed the Constitution of 1868.  A formal transfer from the military to the civil authority was made on July 4, 1868.  (Id., p. 28.)

    The Constitution of 1868 "was not in accord with the will of the people," since it provided for the appointment by the governor of all the judicial and administrative ofers of hte state and counties except county constables.  On June 9, 1885, a constitutional convention met in Tallahassee, and, on August 3, 1885, the Constitution of 1868 was proclaimed, making most of the state and county officers elective.  This constitution was ratified at the general election in November 1886, and became effective as the state organic law on January 1, 1887.  (Id., p. 26.)

    The county as a separate unit of government is more clearly defined and recognized in the Constitution of 1888 than in any of the four previous constitutions of Florida.  "While the county is an agency of the state, it is also under our Constitution, to some extent at least, an autonomous, self-governing, political entity with respect to exclusively local affairs, in the performance of which functions it is distinguished from its creator, the state, and for its acts and obligations when acting in purely local matters the state is not reponsible.  (Amos, State Comptroller, et al. v. Mathews, 99 Fla. 1, 125 So. 308.)  This is recognition of a principle more ancient than the Constittion itself; namely, that the performance of state functions hsall be confided to state officers, while the performance of county functions shall be confided to county officers.  Such a subdivision existed in England from the earliest times; the English counties having recognized powers in matters of purely local concern."  (Id., citing:  Taylor's Origina and History of the English Constitution, vol I, pp. 41, 42; vol. II, p. 190.)

    The Constitution of 1885 [start on page 10, 2nd paragraph)


pp. 8-14