St. Augustine was the chief center of population in colonial Florida. It was not however at any time a town of considerable size. Indeed, the whole white population of East and West Florida in the first Spanish period never exceeded a few thousand at most. The explanation is simple. There were greater attractions elsewhere. Unlike Mexico and the other mainland regions to the south, Florida had no mines to be exploited, no extensive fields already prepared for cultivation, and no Indian serfs to do the white man’s bidding. Nor did it possess the conditions of soil and climate which made the production of plantation crops by means of slave labor so profitable in the neighboring islands.
Lockey, Joseph B.
"The St. Augustine Census of 1786,"
Florida Historical Quarterly: Vol. 18:
1, Article 4.
Available at: https://stars.library.ucf.edu/fhq/vol18/iss1/4