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Jenkins Ear Day – April 9, 2023

Jenkins’ Ear Day on April 9 marks the day when Captain Robert Jenkins lost his ear during a battle. In April 1731, Spanish coast guards led by privateer Juan de León Fandiño invaded, searched, and raided Jenkins’ ship named Rebecca. The exact reason why they chopped off his ear is unclear. Some accounts say it was a punishment for raiding Spanish ships, while others say Rebecca was carrying contraband. Fandiño arrogantly said to Jenkins, “Go, and tell your King that I will do the same if he dares to do the same.” Jenkins returned to England with his pickled ear in a bottle, which had a tremendous effect on the nation. So much so that The House of Commons summoned him in March 1738 to appear before them and produce the severed ear. Jenkins dutifully did so to the astonishment of the House. Those in attendance asked him what he had done to warrant such treatment. To this, Jenkins replied, “I commended my soul to God and my cause to my country.”

History of Jenkins Ear Day

The Royal Naval commander in Port Royal said that people involved in what he described as “clandestine trade” had no right to complain if their cargoes were confiscated and often indulged in violence. After all, such incidents were seen as normal at the time — the cost of doing business. The English people were enraged by the incident and demanded that the Spanish be taught a lesson. Cutting off Englishmen’s ears was unacceptable!

Jenkins’ ear stirred up the country’s imagination. The power of this shriveled object was immense and the ear became a symbol of English pride. To this extent, the ear started a war between England and Spain in 1739. Consequently, the war is known as the War of Jenkins’ Ear which occurred in several waves. There were several diplomatic negotiation attempts between England and Spain throughout the 1730s in Europe and America. However, these only heightened the animosity between the two nations, leading to the War of Jenkins’ Ear in late 1739.

The British launched attacks on Spanish possessions in Central America, resulting in high casualties mainly from disease. After 1742, this war was overtaken by the wider War of the Austrian Succession, in which most of the powers of Europe took part. Peace was only restored with the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748. Traditionally, the main cause of the War of Jenkins’ Ear has been stated as a dispute between Spain and Britain over access to markets in Spanish America. However, in recent times, historians such as Woodfine and Anderson argue that this was only one of many issues. The other reasons include tensions with Spain over colonial expansion in North America and French concern at the growth in British commercial strength from 1714.

Jenkins Ear Day timeline

October 22, 1739
The First Wave of War

Admiral Vernon sends three ships to intercept Spanish ships between Porto Bello and La Guaira.

November 20 to 22, 1739
Porto Bello is Captured

Admiral Vernon attacks the port with six ships of the line, and Porto Bello falls within 24 hours.

1740
A Song of Victory

The song ‘Rule Britannia’ is written to celebrate Porto Bello's capture by the British.

1858
The War Makes it to a Book

Essayist and historian Thomas Carlyle writes the book “History of Friedrich II'' in which he mentions the War of Jenkins's Ear.

Jenkins Ear Day FAQs

When did the War of Jenkins’ Ear begin?

This war started in October 1739.

Which of Jenkins’ ears was cut off?

The Spaniards cut off his left ear.

Where did Jenkins lose his ear?

The Spaniards attacked Jenkins off the coast of Cuba.

Jenkins Ear Day Activities

  1. Go sailing

    You might not have access to the warships of Jenkins’ time, but any vessel that can take you on the water safely will do. Get a feel of what it would have been like to be attacked while at sea.

  2. Play dress-up

    Gather some friends and dress up in vintage mariner attire. Take pictures and videos to keep the memories alive for years.

  3. Keep your ears safe

    Even though the chances of you getting your ears sliced off are low, they’re still under threat. Loud noise is the biggest culprit facing these organs. Keep them safe by enjoying your entertainment at a reasonable volume and staying away from extremely noisy places.

5 Facts About The War Of Jenkins’ Ear

  1. Special treatment for the Spanish

    The 1729 Treaty of Seville allowed the Spanish to board British vessels trading with the Americas to inspect them for contraband.

  2. Fact or fiction?

    The confrontational nature of British politics in 1738 made many people who were opposed to launching a naval war against Spain doubt the authenticity of Jenkins' story.

  3. The story makes it to the media

    The attack on Jenkins was reported in “The Gentleman's Magazine” in June 1731.

  4. An attacker was imprisoned

    Juan de León Fandiño was held in captivity for 19 months by the British.

  5. Jenkins in politics

    He was dispatched to Saint Helena as acting governor for some time in the early 1740s.

Why We Love Jenkins Ear Day

  1. It’s humorous

    Apart from Peter lopping off Malchus’ ear in the “Bible,” this is one of the few real-life tales in history that document someone losing an ear during a duel. You’ve got to admit, it’s pretty funny.

  2. It’s an important historical event

    Jenkins being assaulted in itself was significant. However, even more, were the events that spun off from it such as several wars between the Spanish and the British.

  3. It gives credibility

    If it wasn’t for the written records, it would be difficult for many people to believe the events that transpired. Thankfully, Jenkins’ Ear Day keeps the story alive.

Jenkins Ear Day dates

YearDateDay
2023April 9Sunday
2024April 9Tuesday
2025April 9Wednesday
2026April 9Thursday
2027April 9Friday

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