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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Touched at a place called Port Egmont by him


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before, she was doubly so

now. France wished revenge and the restoration of her overseas domains, while Spain's principal motive was a desire to save her colonies from conquest by England. Both countries therefore bent their energies to preparations for another war; in Spain the next decade and a half was a period of remarkable economic reforms tending to the regeneration of the peninsula as the basis for an army and navy. Meanwhile, steps were taken to avoid the possibility of an English descent upon the Spanish West Indies, which were regarded as the principal danger-point, both because of the strength of England's position in the Caribbean area, and because that region was the key to the Spanish mainland colonies of the two Americas. Pretexts for trouble were not lacking. The English dyewood cutters of Honduras did not observe the restrictions placed upon them by the treaty of Paris, and the British government neglected to satisfy Spain's complaints in that regard; the French settlers of Louisiana refused to acknowledge their transfer to the Spanish crown, wherefore it was necessary to employ force against them, and it was believed that English agents had instigated them to resist; on the other hand England repeatedly demanded the payment of a ransom which the English conquerors of Manila had exacted from that city, but Spain refused to pay the claim. The principal diplomatic interest down to 1771, however, was the so-called question of the Falkland Islands (called Malouines by the French, and Maluinas
by Spaniards). This group, lying some 250 miles east of the Strait of Magellan, seems to have been discovered by Spanish navigators of the sixteenth century, for a description of the islands was in the possession of the Spanish authorities at an early time. The first English voyage to this group was that of Captain Cowley, as late as 1686, but no claim could be made on this basis, for in 1748 England formally recognized the rights of Spain. Not much attention was paid to the Falklands until after the Seven Years' War, although various navigators visited them, but in 1763 a Spanish pilot, Mathei, made the first of a series of voyages to these islands. In 1764 a French expedition under Bougainville landed at one of them, and formed a settlement, and in the next year the English captain, Biron, touched at a place called Port Egmont by him, took formal possession for England, applying the name Falkland to the group, and proceeded on his way to the Pacific Ocean and around the world. Not long afterward an English settlement was made at Port Egmont, and the governor no sooner heard of the presence of the French than he ordered their withdrawal. Meanwhile, the Spanish government had lodged a complaint at the French court against the occupation of the islands by France, and an agreement was reached, whereby the French should abandon the group and a Spanish settlement there should be formed. This was done, and the English and Spanish governors began mutually to demand each other's withdrawal, the Englishman setting a time limit of six months. The Spanish government directed the captain-general of Buenos Aires to expel the English settlers, and accordingly, though not until June, 1770, these orders were carried out. When the news reached England the British Parliament voted funds in preparation for war, and made excessive demands for reparation for what was considered an insult to England as well as for the restitution of the colony. Spain, in reliance upon the Family Compact, was not inclined to avoid the issue, and matters even went so far as the retirement of the Spanish and English ambassadors, when an unforeseen event occurred, changing the whole aspect of affairs. This was the fall of Choiseul, the French minister who had negotiated the Family Compact and who was believed by Spain to be ready to bring France into the war. It was on this occasion that Louis XV is reported to have said "My minister wanted war, but I do not," thus calmly disregarding the treaty with Spain. Consequently, Spain had to yield, and in 1771 the Spanish ambassador to London signed a declaration disapproving the removal of the English colonists and promising to restore Port Egmont, although without prejudice to Spain's claim to the islands.[59]


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