Saturday, September 24, 2011

British-Spanish conflict in Jamaica in the seventeenth century

     In 1654, Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector of Britain, sent a fleet to capture the Spanish colonies of West Indies. There were several reasons for Cormwell to undertake the naval expedition. Spain had been a traditional enemy of Britain since 1588. The religious disagreement exacerbated the relations between two countries when Cromwell, a pious Puritan, took into power in Britain while the Spain is a stubborn Catholic nation.The citizens of two counties also disliked each other. Cromwell's advisor John Milton recapitulated that Spaniards often inflicted cruel wrongs upon British traders and colonists at the West Indies, such as the massacres at St. Kitts in 1629. Besides, Spanish usually attacked on English vessels, plundering and killing the crew. Therefore, British government decided to take an attack on Spanish colonies of West Indies for a vengeance and a glory of country.
      In addition, Spain was a commerical rivalry of Britain. Cromwell wanted to attack on Spanish trade and treasure. At that time, sugar replaced gold and silver to be the most valuable commdity. Hence, British must occupy a proper island of West Indies to produce sugar.
      Cromwell's expedition to the West Indies, which was called Western Design, began on December 26th in 1654 when a fleet left Portsmouth. The fleed included about six thousand soldiers and sailors, and it was commanded by the Admiral William Penn and the General Robert Venables. Their original object was Hispaniola, the most valuable Spainsh colony at the West Indies. The British fleet got reinforcement at Barbados and they attacked Hispaniola in April 1655, but they failed at last. Therefore, they decided to capture the most defenceless Spanish colony in the West Indies, Jamaica. The British fleet arrived at Jamaica in May 1655 and anchored on Passage Fort. They landed on Jamaica on May 10th, and captured the Spanish Town (the capital of Spanish Jamaica) through little conflict. The Spaniards' strength was so weak in Jamaica that the Governor Cristobal Arnaldo Isasi had to capitulate on May 17th. Although Penn and Venagles occupied Jamaica successfully, they were put into the Tower of London because their failure to capture Hispaniola. Actually, Jamaica was little useful at that time. Nevertheless, British decide to hold the island because they thought that Jamaica could be a base for British force to attack Spanish colonies and vessels in the Caribbean.
    Spanish didn't want to give up the island. The native Spaniards retired to woods and hills with the runaway slaves (maroons). They were under the command of the former governor Isasi and continued to resist the British garrison. At the same time, Bristish soldiers suffered significant diseases and they were weakened. In 1657, Isasi gained reforcement from Cuba and decided to occupy the island again. The British governor, Edward D'Oyley, sailed north, taking nine hundred militia to the Ocho Rios. He defeated Spanish army and made Isasi flee back to the hills. Isasi tried again in 1658 at Rio Nuevo with reforcement from Mexico, however, he was defeated again by D'Oyley.
     To defend the Jamaica from Spain, the governor of Jamaica invited the pirates to base at Port Royal in 1657. Port Royal became the capital of Caribbean pirates and many great pirates such as Henry Morgan, sailed from here to attack Spanish colonies and vessels. At last, Spain recognized the British possession of Jamaica at the treaty of Madrid in 1670.

1. William James Gardner, A History of Jamaica, London: 1873, page 28-40

2. Robert Venables, The narrative of General Venables: with an appendix of Papers Relating to the Expedition to the West Indies and the Conquest of Jamaica, 1654-1655, London: 1900

No comments:

Post a Comment