In 1817, Luis de Onís, Spain's envoy to the United States, published a pamphlet in Philadelphia detailing the history of the colony of West Florida. Spaniards had explored there in the sixteenth century. France and Britain had taken parts of the region as the result of various wars and treaties. Most recently, with Britain's loss in the American Revolution, Spain had regained all of it. Onís demonstrated that Spain had history, right, and reason on its side, while the claims of the United States to the region were imaginary. However, General Andrew Jackson had might on his side, and within two years Onís had to negotiate a treaty ceding West Florida to the United States. As legal historian Deborah Rosen shows in her fascinating book, the collision played an important role in changing US and European ideas about how to apply the...

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