Spain And The Powers 1715-1739
Spanish dynastic ambitions.—From 1715 to 1739 the relations of England and Spain were frequently strained, due to the clashing of commercial and colonial interests, or to the ambitions of Spanish rulers. Philip V hoped to become the king of France. His second wife, Elizabeth Farnese, was ambitious to secure territories in Italy for her sons, the elder, Don Carlos, being destined to play an important part in Italian and Spanish history. The Spanish minister, Alberoni, devoted himself to building up Spanish influence in Italy.
The Triple and Quadruple Alliances.—Her Italian policy brought Spain into discord with the Emperor Charles VI, as the House of Austria hoped to remain the dominant factor in Italy. In 1717 Austrian acts in the Milanese provoked hostilities. Spanish forces immediately occupied Sardinia and the following year Sicily. The same year an alliance had been made between England, France, and Holland, and in 1718 Austria joined the alliance. Austrian troops were sent to Italy, a Spanish fleet was defeated by the English Admiral Byng, and in 1719 a French army crossed the Spanish frontier. Spain was brought to terms and Alberoni was dismissed. But before definite terms could be arranged, France opened negotiations with Spain and French influence was greatly strengthened. The war between Spain and France extended to their North American colonies, with important consequences, as has been set forth in an earlier chapter.
Spanish-Austrian alliance.—From 1721 to 1724 Elizabeth Farnese depended on the French alliance to attain her ends. But France made no effort to dislodge the English from Gibraltar, and Spanish merchants complained of English smugglers in the colonies. Furthermore, Don Carlos had not been established in Italy. To bring about the desired ends, in 1725 an alliance between Spain and Austria was formed. This was made possible by the ambitions of the Emperor Charles VI, who had been unable to obtain the adhesion of England, Holland, and France to the Pragmatic Sanction. He also hoped to secure a part of the Oriental trade by the formation of the Ostend East India Company, an enterprise which ran counter to English, Dutch, and French interests. Spain immediately demanded from England the cession of Gibraltar. The reply was the formation of the League of Hanover between England, France, and Prussia, the last named power, however, soon deserting its allies. Hostilities began in 1726 when an English fleet blockaded Puerto Bello and in 1727 the Spanish besieged Gibraltar. Austria was unprepared for war. Powerful parties in England and France did not favor it, and a considerable faction in Spain opposed the Austrian alliance. In consequence a peace was patched up. The operations of the Ostend Company were suspended for seven years, and the siege of Gibraltar was abandoned.
The treaty of Seville.—Abandoned by Austria, Elizabeth Farnese turned to England and Holland. A treaty was made which provided that the privileges of the Ostend Company be revoked, that England's former rights of trade in the Spanish colonies be renewed, that Spain abandon her claims to Minorca and Gibraltar, and that the succession of Don Carlos to the Italian duchies be guaranteed. The Austrian emperor was furious, but was pacified by a recognition of the Pragmatic Sanction on the part of England and Holland. In 1731 Don Carlos became Duke of Parma and Placenzia and was assured the succession to Tuscany.
French and Spanish alliance.—Walpole was not inclined to strengthen Spanish influence in Italy, so the shifty queen abandoned England and brought about an alliance with France. This was made possible by commercial difficulties in the colonies, and by the fact that French and English colonial interests were approaching a collision. The alliance of France and Spain was not disclosed, however, until 1739. In 1733 the War of the Polish Succession broke out; in the struggle England remained neutral, but France and Spain took an active part against Austria. At the end of the war Naples and Sicily were united under the rule of Don Carlos and the great ambition of Elizabeth Farnese was attained.
Commercial relations of Spain and England, 1715-1739.—By the treaty of Utrecht England had gained the right to supply the Spanish colonies with slaves and to send an annual cargo of five hundred tons to Spanish ports. English merchants were not satisfied with this paltry trade, and smuggling increased. Spanish coast guard ships seized many of the English traders, who received rough handling by the Spanish officials. During 1738 and 1739 public opinion in England became more and more inflamed against Spain. A paper presented to parliament in 1738 showed that in recent years fifty-two vessels had been plundered by the Spaniards, and that British seamen had been harshly treated. The most famous case was that of Thomas Jenkins, who declared that a coast guard captain had captured him, cut off his ears, and insolently remarked, "Carry this home to the King, your master, whom, if he were present, I Would serve in like fashion." Attempts to settle difficulties by diplomacy failed, and by the summer of 1739 it became evident that war was at hand. On July 10 George II issued a proclamation authorizing reprisals and letters of marque against Spanish commerce. England declared war on October 23, and Spain on November 28.
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