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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

This occasioned the dismissal of Pombal


There

was a much stronger case against England with regard to Portugal, whose exaggerated claims were supported by the British government. The boundaries between the Spanish and Portuguese colonies in South America had been an unending source of dispute, ever since the treaty of Tordesillas in 1494, and the question was complicated by that of British and Portuguese smuggling into Spain's colonies. The principal scene of conflict was the Portuguese post of Sacramento, founded in 1679 on the eastern bank of the R?o de la Plata. The Spanish-owned region of Paraguay was also a field for Portuguese aggressions. Domestic animals to the number of hundreds of thousands were driven off from the Spanish settlements, while thousands of Indian families were captured and sold into slavery. Ferdinand VI endeavored to solve these problems through a treaty which he made with Portugal, in 1750, according to which Spain acquired Sacramento in exchange for territories in the Paraguayan region. The treaty met with the spirited opposition of leading Spanish ministers, and with that of the Jesuit missionaries, the Indians, and the Spanish settlers in the regions affected, and after many vicissitudes, including a war in Paraguay, it was annulled in 1761, but the troubles on the border continued. One of the underlying difficulties was the ambition of Portugal. Under the direction of the Marquis of Pombal, Portuguese minister of state, she was desirous of making conquests in South America, for which purpose
Pombal was willing to go to any length in bad faith to achieve his end, relying upon the support of England in case Spain should declare war. Pombal secretly directed the Portuguese officials in the Sacramento region to seize desirable Spanish territories, and when reports of these captures came to Europe pretended that they were false, or that they were nothing more than inconsequential affrays between the Spanish and Portuguese soldiery. He promised to order his troops to desist from such actions, and asked Charles III to do the same. The Spanish king complied with his wishes, while Pombal on the contrary continued to give orders for hostilities and to send reinforcements, hoping that the Portuguese might secure posts from which it would be impossible to dislodge them by the time his duplicity should be found out. Not only did he deceive Charles III for a while, but he also misled the English ministers, pretending that Portugal was a victim of Spanish ambition when the facts were quite the contrary. England supported Pombal with vigorous diplomatic action. By the close of the year 1775, however, England was so busily engaged in the disputes with her own colonies that she was far from desiring a war in Europe. The British Cabinet announced that it would take no part in the quarrel between Spain and Portugal, provided Charles III should make no attempts on the territorial integrity of Portugal and Brazil. Pombal now made peaceful overtures to Charles III, hoping to delay the sending of Spanish troops to South America, but the proofs of Pombal's perfidy were by this time so clear that the king of Spain would not trust him. In fact, a Portuguese fleet in South America attacked the Spanish fleet, in February, 1776, and shortly afterward the Portuguese captured the Spanish post of Santa Tecla. In November a Spanish expedition left C?diz, and on arrival in South America put a check to the Portuguese aggressions, and captured Sacramento. Fortune played into Spain's hands in another respect when Mar?a Victoria, sister of Charles III, became regent of Portugal on the death of the king in 1777. This occasioned the dismissal of Pombal, and in October of that year a treaty was arranged between Spain and Portugal entirely favorable to the former. The much-disputed Sacramento colony was awarded to Spain, while Paraguay was retained. This treaty, supplemented by another in 1778, put an end, after nearly three centuries, to the disputes between Spain and Portugal with regard to their American boundaries.


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