Thursday, June 26, 2014

Thursday in History: Ear

It started with Rebecca and Isabela.
Well, to be more specific, it started on Rebecca when she was stopped by Isabela.
Actually, it started when Isabela's captain accused Rebecca's captain of being a smuggler and cut off his ear, vowing to do the same to their king if the smuggling continued.
...Maybe I should go a bit further back.
Spain and Britain had never been best friends, but in 1713 they had settled their most recent war and shaken hands. Spain had promised Britain a lucrative trade deal, which allowed them exclusive rights to bring all the African slaves they could to Spain's colonies in America, along with a certain amount of trade goods per year. In exchange, Britain agreed not to overstep their bounds, and granted Spanish ships the right to make sure of it.
It was this limit on trade goods that sparked bitterness between the two countries again. What merchant isn't going to try to bring in more goods than he's technically allowed to, if he's making money? And what were Spanish captains supposed to do when they found evidence of the British merchants wantonly tossing the treaty aside?
There probably hadn't been anything in the agreement about the removal of body parts, but when the British Parliament were treated to Captain Jenkins' testimony and the sight of his severed ear, they were ready enough to go to war.
And so, in 1731 the War of Jenkins' Ear began.
The British had wrested control of Fort Mose, Florida’s refuge for free slaves, in 1739, since it was along a major thoroughfare and holding the fort secured their interests in the area. Previously, it had provided work for any slave lucky enough to reach it: the women worked in the fields, and the men all served a four year stint in the army.
On this day in history in 1740, Fort Mose was retaken by the Spanish, aided by Seminole troops and the freed slaves who claimed the fort as their home. The fort was destroyed, and the British who were in the area retreated all the way back to their ships. The residents of the fort moved to nearby St. Augustine and enjoyed all the benefits of full citizenship in the Spanish Empire, and many moved back when Fort Mose was rebuilt in 1752.
The War of Jenkins’ Ear was finally settled by the Treaty of Madrid in 1750, and since the War of Austrian Succession had kind of gotten in the way and overshadowed the first sparks of disagreement between Spain and Britain, nobody remembered the reason it had started. Relations improved after that, and though Spain stayed out of Britain’s Seven Years War with France, it didn’t stop them from quietly aiding rebellious British colonists in America.

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