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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

But in 1782 Minorca fell into Spanish hands


Failure of mediation and Spain's entry into the war.]

Charles III now began to attempt the part of a mediator, in hopes that he might get Gibraltar and Minorca as the price for bringing about peace. In May, 1778, Escarano suggested to Lord Weymouth, a member of the British ministry, that Gibraltar would be a fair equivalent for Spain's services, but was told that the price was too high, and that affairs had probably gone beyond the point where mediation would serve; England wanted no more from Spain than that she remain neutral. In making this reply Lord Weymouth rather brusquely thanked Charles III for the magnanimity of his offer,--a type of answer which was not calculated to be pleasing to the Spanish ear, as Floridablanca very plainly intimated to the English ambassador. To add to Spain's displeasure England's conduct on the sea gave cause for complaint. Nevertheless, Charles still hoped to serve as arbitrator,--all the more so, when news came of French naval victories over the English. He prevailed upon Louis XVI to submit the terms upon which he would make peace. The conditions, which included an acknowledgment of American independence and the recall of England's land and sea forces, were presented to Lord Weymouth, who haughtily rejected them. Late in the same year, 1778, Spain's proposal of a twenty-five or thirty year truce between England and her colonies was also rejected. Nothing could exceed the patience of Charles III, who then

offered Weymouth an indefinite armistice, to be guaranteed by a general disarmament. Again the Spanish king's proposals were arrogantly rejected. To make matters worse, England had delayed her reply from January to March, 1779, and her ships had continued to attack those of Spain. On April 3, Charles renewed his offer of a suspension of hostilities, this time in the form of an ultimatum. England did not answer for nearly two months, and in the meantime, seeing that war was inevitable, planned attacks on the Spanish colonies. On May 28 the ultimatum was rejected, and on June 23 war was declared.

[Sidenote: The war with England and its favorable issue.]

Spain was well prepared for the war, besides which the favorable state of her relations with Portugal, and indeed with other countries, was a source of strength. France and Spain planned an invasion of England which did not materialize, but it did cause the retention of the English fleet in British waters and a diminution in the military forces sent to America,--a factor in the American war not to be overlooked. The attempts to retake Gibraltar were unsuccessful, but in 1782 Minorca fell into Spanish hands. In America, Florida was reconquered from the British, the establishments in Honduras were taken, and the English were expelled from the Bahama Islands of the West Indies. Meanwhile, England displayed great eagerness to remove Spain from the list of her enemies. Late in 1779 she offered to restore Gibraltar for the price of Spanish neutrality, and to add Florida and the right to fish in Newfoundland waters if Spain would aid her against the United States. Not only this time but also on two other occasions when England endeavored to treat separately with Spain her offers were rejected, even though they embodied favorable terms for withdrawal from the war. In an age when international faith was not very sacred, Spain preferred to remain true to France, with whom she had renewed her alliance, although to be sure England's promises never equalled Spain's hopes. It is also interesting to note, not only that the Americans had a representative in Spain (John Jay), but also that there were agents of Spain in the United States (Miralles and Rend?n), besides which Bernardo de G?lvez, the conqueror of Florida, had dealings with American agents at New Orleans. The general relations of the two governments cannot be said to have been cordial, however, and at no time was there anything approaching a veritable alliance; Bourbon Spain could not possibly approve of the democratic United States. By the treaty of 1783, which ended the war, Spain got Florida and Minorca, and limited the dyewood privileges of the English in Honduras to a term of years. On the other hand Spain restored the Bahamas to England. An interesting period of relations between Spain and the United States, having to do primarily with the regions of the lower Mississippi valley, began in the closing years of the reign of Charles III, but the story belongs rather to the colonial side of the history of Spain.

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