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The Alabama territory was first explored by Spanish, especially De Soto, in 1540. In quest of Spanish treasure in the holds of ships wrecked along the Florida coast and hoping for conversion of the natives, Don Tristan de Luna y Arellano said from Vera Cruz in 1559 with a party of 1,500 colonist. Their immediate objective was setting up settlements along the gulf. Entering Pensacola Bay they failed to establish a permanent foothold, but explored the northwestern part of Alabama. The first settlement was built in 1702 in the Mobile area by the French under the command of Jean Baptiste le Moyne Bienville, who was a colonizer and the governor of Louisiana for France. The Alabama territory was later ceded to Great Britain in 1763 after the French and Indian Wars.
After the American Revolution in 1783 the Alabama territory came under the possession of the United States. The defeat of the Creek Indians by Andrew Jackson in 1814 spurred settlement and Alabama became a territory in 1817. With more and more settlers moving to the territory, Alabama was admitted to the Union as the 22nd state in 1819. At the close of 1819 when the applications of Missouri and Maine were before congress for admission to statehood, there were 22 states in the Union. The slave states included Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. The free states included Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. The political balance between the north and south had not been maintained by admitting alternately slave and free states. But even with the three fifths ratio operating in their favor the slave states only had 81 votes in the House of Representatives against 105 votes held by the free states.
Late in 1819 the Missouri Territory embraced all of the Louisiana Purchase and the question was raised of the legal status of slavery in Missouri and the rest of the territory west of the Mississippi. This debate would lead to the beginning of the Civil War. Alabama was one of several southern states that ceded from the union on January 11, 1861. The Confederate government was organized at Montgomery on February 4. After the Civil War in 1868 Alabama was readmitted to the Union. Two world wars stimulated industrialization and crop diversification in the state of Alabama. Today the Black Belt yields cotton, corn and peanuts. The Capitol is Montgomery. The State Bird is the Yellowhammer and the State Flower is the Camellia.