Thursday, February 08, 2007
Under the 1729 Treaty of Seville, the British had agreed not to trade with the Spanish colonies. To verify the treaty, the Spanish were permitted to board British vessels in Spanish waters. After one such incident in 1731, Robert Jenkins, captain of the ship Rebecca, claimed that the Spanish coast guard had severed his ear. Encouraged by his government (which was determined to continue its drive toward commercial domination of the Atlantic basin), in 1738 Jenkins exhibited his pickled ear to the House of Commons, whipping up war fever against Spain. To much cheering, the British Prime Minister, Robert Walpole, reluctantly declared war on October 23, 1739.