The War of Jenkins Ear

Jenkin's Ear

The real cause of this war between England and Spain was the frequent violation on the part of the English of the commercial laws which Spain had made to exclude foreign nations from the trade of her American colonies. Here is what happened: The Spanish captured an English merchant vessel and accused its master of violating the trade laws with Spain. In order to wring a confession from the master, Captain Jenkins, the Spanish captain had him hung from a yard arm of his ship until he was nearly dead. Then, upon letting him down, supposed that he would confess. But the stubborn captain denied that he had been engaged in any nefarious dealings. When the Spanish captain could find no proof against him, he cut off one of the English captain’s ears as a warning of what Englishmen might expect who were caught trading with Spain’s colonies in America. Captain Jenkins put the ear in his pocket, sailed home as fast as wind would carry him, and was taken straight to the House of Parliament with his story. The indignation insulted both Lords and Commons to the degree that there was a loud clamor for vengence. Even Lord Warpole who had managed to hold the English dogs of war in leash, was not compelled to yield to the will of the people. Thus, Parliament declared war with Spain. The founder of the Georgia Colony, James Edward Oglethorpe was promoted to General and in charge of the land war against Spain, particularly the Spanish settlements in Florida. King George called upon his “trusty and well beloved subjects in Carolina” and the other twelve colonies, to raise troops to help the mother country in her struggle with arrogant Spain. Carolina responded to the call for troops, as the following letter from Governor Gabriel Johnston to the Duke of Newcastle will testify: “I can now assure your grace that we have raised 400 men in this province who are just going to put to sea. In those Northern Parts of the Colony adjoining to Virginia, we have got 100 men each, though some few deserted since they began to send them on board the transports at Cape Fear. I have good reason to believe we could have raised 200 more if it had been possible to negotiate the Bills of Exchange in this part of the Continent; but as that was impossible we were obliged to rest satisfied with four companies. I must in justice to the assembly of the Province inform Your Grace that they were very zealous and unanimous in promoting this service. They have raised a subsidy of 1200 pounds as it is reckoned hereby on which the men have subsisted ever since August, and all the Transports are victualed.” The Carolina troops were part of the engagements at Cartagena and Boca-Chica. Afterwards, the troops from the colonies embarked upon their vessels to return home. However, a malignant fever broke out among the soldiers and destroyed nine out of every ten men on the ships! The names of these valiant North Carolinians is unknown, however, the gallantry of Captain Innes of Wilmington was mentioned, as well as his participation in the French and Indian War.

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