This collection represents a small sample of antebellum court cases in Series 49 and Series 73 at the State Archives of Florida.
Series 49 contains the records of the Florida Supreme Court as well as a number of cases from the territorial period.
Series 73 includes only cases before the Florida Territorial Court of Appeals between 1824 and 1846. Together, these two series consist of more than 5,200 cubic feet of records.
In 1821, under the terms of the Adams-Onís Treaty, Florida became a territory of the United States. Andrew Jackson, the first territorial governor, laid the groundwork for Florida’s legal system by modifying aspects of Spanish colonial and British common law to conform to U.S. customs. Territorial officials established lower district (or circuit) courts and the Territorial Court of Appeals, which consisted of a panel of three justices.
In 1845, the territorial system was replaced by the Florida Supreme Court. The power of the court in the early years rested with judges appointed by the legislature. The Confederate constitution of 1861 empowered the governor to appoint justices, with assistance from the Senate. Subsequent changes in 1868, 1885, and 1968 further outlined the process for selecting justices and setting limits on tenure.
Each case included here is accompanied by a brief summary. These short essays are intended to introduce certain aspects of the cases, but are not comprehensive treatments of all the legal issues involved.
Researchers who discover errors or omissions in the transcripts are encouraged to contact the State Archives of Florida with corrections: firstname.lastname@example.org. We appreciate your assistance in providing the most accurate transcriptions possible.
For more on the history of Florida’s courts during the period covered here see: Walter W. Manley II, et al. The Supreme Court of Florida and Its Predecessor Courts, 1821-1917 (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1997). All opinions published by the Florida Supreme Court for cases included here can be found in Florida Reports>, volumes I – IX.