This day In History, Spain Declares War On Britain (1778)

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On this day in 1779, Spain declared war on Britain, creating an alliance with the  colonial Americans. The Americans had been in revolt against the British Crown for several years. They had suffered many reverses but they had begun to gain ground in recent months, because of the brilliant leadership of Washington.

Spain’s King Charles III would not sign a treaty of alliance with the United States. The King did not want to be seen as encouraging their subjects to revolt against their monarch. At this time, it was widely believed that the monarch was appointed by God to rule a people and a revolt against the king was a revolt against God. The French Foreign Minister managed to persuade Spain to join their war against the British. Spain despite joining the war did not officially enter into an alliance with the American colonies. Spain was very powerful in the America’s, it controlled South America, apart from Brazil. It also held large areas in the modern west and south of the United States.

The American Revolution led to a situation where the European powers entered into a war with each other. The Revolution had started an international war. This was because when France entered the war on America’s side that this led to them attacking the British all over their vast Empire. The Spanish did not join the war out of any real sympathy for the Americans. They did so for cold strategic and political interests. The British had defeated the Spanish in several wars in the eighteenth century and had lost a significant amount of territory.

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A gun used in the siege of Gibraltar

King Charles wanted Gibraltar returned to  Spain. The army and navy of Spain laid siege to a British garrison in Gibraltar.   This led to a long and bloody siege that was to last for years. Only the heroism of the British and regular supplies by the British navy allowed them to resist the Spanish. In 1783 the British counter-attacked and they drove the Spanish army from Gibraltar. However, the Spanish King succeeded in his North American objectives.  With the British occupied with the colonies, the Spanish attacked them from the south. From their bases in the Caribbean, the Spanish army and navy assembled a large military force that attacked British-held Florida. The Spanish took West Florida by force and forced the British to cede East Florida to them when the War for Independence ended. The Spanish were also able to secure the sovereignty of the Gulf of Mexico.

However, Spain was not to enjoy the fruits of its victory for long. The country was later invaded by Spain. During a financial crisis, the Spanish King later sold his possessions in Florida to the American government and Florida eventually became a State.

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