Monday, September 24, 2012

September 24, 2012

Georgian Englishmen and Floridian Spaniards: Religious Struggle or Land Grab?

In my posts I often speak of the battle against Protestantism that took place in Florida in 1565, when hundreds of French Protestant civilians and soldiers were killed by Spanish conquistadors at Fort Caroline and Matanzas Inlet. This religious struggle did not end there, however, for a new Protestant power came forth . . . the English. The fact that the English were a bit “tardy to the party” in the colonization effort meant little. By 1742, the Protestant east coast, which stretched from Maine to Georgia, felt itself in danger from the brooding presence of Catholic Spaniards in Florida.

Whether the war quaintly called the “War of Jenkins’ Ear” was religiously-based or not, religion certainly played a large part in prejudices. To the English, Spaniards were the carriers of the “Black Legend,” bold, cruel, fanatical individuals who would uphold their Catholic rituals so obsessively that they would kill Protestant believers without a second thought (which, fair enough, is what they did two centuries earlier at Matanzas). To the Spaniards, Englishmen were dandies and fops with heretical doctrines and arrogant notions. This mutual hatred came to a head in 1740, when English troops besieged the Spanish town of San Agustín (St. Augustine, Florida, the nation’s oldest city) and attacked the old Castillo de San Marcos.

This was not the only reason Spaniards were bitter against Englishmen. In 1702, during another such siege, British soldiers had burned and desecrated nearly every Spanish church. So the Spanish had that resentment under their belt, and the English despised the Spanish for their atrocities at Matanzas and beyond. (It did not help that in the siege of 1702, Protestant Englishmen who fell on the Castillo lawn were simply interred unceremoniously and forgotten, as Spaniards at that time did not believe that Protestants needed or deserved “legitimate” burials.

In July 1742 there was a clash at Saint Simons Island, Georgia, and an event that would become known as the Battle of Bloody Marsh (which coincidentally wasn’t that very bloody). The religious ideas behind the excursion were muted but still powerful. In England’s eyes, Catholic Spain, allowed to flourish and creep further up the coast, would be a direct threat to England’s many colonies, all of whom were Protestant and were filled with various settlers who were discomforted by the idea of Spaniards in America. The “War of Jenkins’ Ear” was not a religious struggle, but the spiritual struggles present between Spaniard and Briton were very obvious and definitely set the tone throughout the conflict.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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