As the young United States of America was finishing its race toward freedom in April 1783, the Philadelphia Congress bestowed on a particular individual, the designation of “Protector and Defender of U.S. Independence.”
The question is, who may have merited this special recognition? Was it George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, or some other prominent colonist patriot?
The answer is none of the above. Actually, the recipient was Spain’s King Charles III (Carlos III) (1716-1788).
However, that brings up two follow-up questions: (l) why was the King of Spain so much admired by the Thirteen Colonies leaders; and (2) why is that fact rarely mentioned by mainstream historians?
Hopefully, the article below will help rectify the long-standing injustice in recording the history of this great nation that France and Spain helped build.
In answering question (l) above, Spanish King Carlos III was the most intelligent, effective monarch of his day who took a personal interest in the Thirteen Colonies’ quest for independence. He gave clear marching orders: (a) directed his ministers to do everything possible to help the colonies: (b) Spain became the banker of the U.S. (incidentally, the Mexican peso was used by the colonists as legal tender); (c) U.S. ships were welcomed at Spanish ports and protected from British war ships; and (d) most shipments of goods to and from the colonies sailed under the Spanish flag.
Let’s stop here to cover an important point. U.S. classrooms have long taught that the U.S. War of Independence was basically a fight against European royal tyranny. Not so! The only king that the colonists despised was the English king. Indeed, U.S. independence would have been unlikely without the help of the king of France and Spain’s King Carlos III. Truly, the details below prove that Spain was a co-creator of U.S. independence.
In making a case for Spain’s crucial assistance to the U.S. colonies, author Carlos M. Fernandez-Shaw observes: “The abundant documentation of the U.S. War of Independence shows how essential the Spanish alliance was for the victory of the rebels. This is clear from the correspondence between representatives in Europe; from envoy letters describing the help from France and Spain as “indispensably necessary”; and from the statements of John Adams, Ben Franklin, and by George Washington himself, to mention but a few sources.”
For the record, General Bernardo de Gálvez and his all-Spanish army beat the British in land battles throughout the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico. Likewise, the Spanish Navy receives little or no recognition in U.S. history for the various Atlantic Sea battles they won over the British Navy to ensure the colonists’ independence. Yet, Spanish officials and their contributions are ignored in the pages of conventional U.S. history books.
Among them is Diego de Gardogui, the first Spanish ambassador to the U.S. Through his family’s “La Casa de José Gardogui e hijos”, he secretly delivered to General George Washington, significant war materiel. A sample of such aid delivery follows: 215 bronze cannon, 30,000 muskets, 30,000 bayonets, 51,314 musket balls, 300,000 pounds of gun powder, 12,868 grenades, 30,000 uniforms, and 4,000 field tents.
Likewise, Rodriguez, Hortalez y Compañía was a company organized specifically to covertly handle arms shipments and financial help to the rebels. Additionally, they arranged for the transport from Europe of two prominent figures of the U.S. revolution: Prussian Baron von Steuben and Frenchman Marquis de Lafayette.
Equally, Father Junipero Serra mobilized his Mexican parishioners in California, urging them to help fellow Americans in their time of need. Collected funds were then dispatched to the U.S., 3,000 miles away! Similar donations were delivered from throughout New Spain (Mexico).
Spanish Louisiana governor Luis de Unzaga y Amezaga secretly shipped gun powder requested by desperate U.S. officials to use to defend Fort Pitt, the colonies’ western theater of operations headquarters. The gun power was sent up the Mississippi River and arrived just in time to successfully thwart a British attack on the fort. By the way, as General Gálvez, Governor Unzaga donated some of his own money to the U.S. war effort.
To be sure, England’s grand scheme was to sail up the Mississippi River and outflank General Washington’s Army from the west. That was avoided by the superb leadership of General Gálvez, and the equally outstanding tactics of Spanish officers Eugenio Purré (San José in present-day Michigan), and Fernando de Leyba and Baltasar de Villiers (San Carlos in Arkansas). (Note: Spain controlled the entire Mississippi Valley during the independence war.)
Last but not least is José Moñino y Redondo, Conde de Floridablanca. Historians rate him the best Spanish statesman at the time. Although fully engaged in reforming Spain’s foreign policy, he was drawn to the quarrel between Britain and her colonies. He adeptly balanced political contact with the British and his superb support to the young U.S.
In answering question (2) above as to why these vital details are left out of mainstream U.S. history books, the truth is that “to the victor go the spoils”. Shortly afterwards, clearly following an antagonistic path that suggests betrayal toward its former ally, the U.S. first craved and eventually acquired neighboring territory belonging to Spain, its chief independence benefactor.
As to writing history books, Spain’s generosity so amply and freely flowing from the lips of George Washington and many revolutionary leaders was quickly silenced and forgotten. Thence, U.S. historians began to push a “Colonists versus England” encounter. Thus, Spain was snubbed and its name scrubbed clean off the record.
Confidently, this article will introduce the U.S. general public to Spain’s King Carlos III, José Moñino, Count of Floridablanca, Diego de Gardogui, Bernardo Gálvez, and resultant covert operations in Spain. These Herculean efforts made U.S. independence possible. In truth, the fight for U.S. independence has been a diverse undertaking since the very beginning. It’s time to redirect the trajectory of U.S. history from a wholly Anglophile perspective to the more truthful, inclusive U.S.-France-Spain coalition (alliance) that ensured independence victory.
Finally, here’s a sobering thought: Civilians in New Spain (Mexico), that is, Spanish and Mexican Mestizo/Native Americans in 1780s Texas, New Mexico, and California; in Louisiana; and the interior of Mexico; were dedicated to a “We support the troops!” pledge during the U.S. War of Independence.
They donated money, equipment, clothing, and food, doing so at a time when most of today’s anti-Mexico nativists’ Anglo Saxon and Northern European ancestors were either (l) still in Europe; or (2) before they arrived at Ellis Island as immigrants.
Descendants of New Spain soldiers and civilian U.S. War of Independence patriots are still here. We’ve continued to preserve our distinguished heritage “on this side of the border” since 1598. Qualifying descendants also reside in Mexican towns primarily in the states of Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas.
Whether in the Southwest or in Mexico, all justly claim the U.S. as their own. When did that right begin? It began that day in 1783 when Spanish King Carlos III became “Protector and Defender of U.S. independence.”