Born: c. 1700
Best known as: His ear started a war between Britain and Spain
Part of Robert Jenkins is the eponym of the War of Jenkins's Ear, an 18th century episode in the war between Britain and Spain. On 19 October 1739 Britain declared war on Spain, their trade rivals in the West Indies. The two European powers had competed for goods and slaves from their American colonies, and the British reason for finally declaring war had to do with the ear of an English sea captain, Robert Jenkins. In 1738 Jenkins had testified before Parliament that in 1731, while in the Caribbean, Captain Juan de Leon Fandino of Spain had boarded Jenkins' ship, Rebecca, and harassed him and his crew. Jenkins said Fandino had tied him up and cut off his ear with a sword. Jenkins even presented the ear before the House of Commons. When a Parliament member asked how Jenkins reacted, Jenkins said "I commended my soul to God and my cause to my country." Jenkins' story created a sensation and the public outcry forced Prime Minister Robert Walpole into declaring war. Called the War of Jenkins's Ear, it amounted to little more than a few skirmishes at sea, but eventually developed into the cross-continental War of the Austrian Succession.
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