Jenkins's Ear, War of

Jenkins's Ear, War of, 1739–41, struggle between England and Spain. It grew out of the commercial rivalry of the two powers and led to involvement in the larger War of the Austrian Succession. The incident that gave the name to the war occurred in 1731 when, according to Robert Jenkins, master of the ship Rebecca, he had his ear cut off by Spanish coast guards. English smuggling and resentment at exclusion from the Spanish colonial trade caused the war, but Jenkins's story in the House of Commons (1738), reinforced by the showing of his carefully preserved ear, had a tremendous propaganda effect and forced the reluctant Sir Robert Walpole to declare war. The hostilities with Spain up to 1741 were marked only by the naval engagements of Admiral Edward Vernon in the West Indies.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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