The SAR Magazine

Summer 2018

The SAR MAGAZINE is the official quarterly publication of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution published quarterly.

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SUMMER 2018 21 statesmen were certain that Spain did not wish to remain belligerent. Spain sought certain objectives, but humiliation of Britain was not its chief objective. Spain happily would have exited the war in exchange for Gibraltar, even without recovering Minorca. George III easily grasped the scope of Spain's ambitions and was willing to contemplate the cession of Gibraltar, as were many of his key allies. He wanted Puerto Rico in exchange for Gibraltar. As George III stated explicitly in September 1782, "Puerto Rico is the object we must get for that fortress [Gibraltar]." Two months later, George III remained disposed to cede Gibraltar, but his asking price had risen. He now demanded "the compleat restitution of every possession Spain has taken during the war" in addition to Puerto Rico, calling such a hypothetical exchange "highly advantageous to this kingdom." The British Cabinet, however, was animated by different ideas. It informed the king that proposed swaps for Gibraltar had generated little enthusiasm. Nevertheless, George III maintained that Gibraltar was expendable if its cession could bring the war to a close and secure a lasting peace. "I am ready to avow," he said, "that peace is not complete unless Gibraltar be exchanged with Spain." How and why was it that George III reached a different position than that of his ministers? Any answer to this question is speculative (and I am not a practitioner of psychohistory), but a possible answer is that he was privy to his own independent sources of information, drawn from correspondents, whether fellow royals or his unofficial network of shadowy informants. The richness of the Georgian Papers held at Windsor Castle permits a better glimpse into the cabinet debates of 1781-1783 and what we might term the "informational milieu" in which they transpired. George's personal correspondence with members of the royal family provides some clues. Prince William, Duke of Clarence, traveled on a ship accompanying and protecting a British merchant fleet bound for the Mediterranean in January 1780 and visited Gibraltar en route. The prince's Left, a map of the conquest of Pensacola in 1781; right, a contemporary Spanish map of the landing at Mobile of the forces under the command of Bernardo de Gálvez in February 1780. Bernardo de Gálvez by Mariano Salvador Maella. Galvez conquered West Florida, seizing it from the British to advance the interests of Spain and also in support of the American Revolution.

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