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Defending Georgia Against the Spanish in War of Jenkins’ Ear. Scarce Example of the Oldest Regularly Published Newspaper in America
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This issue of the Boston Weekly News-Letter features a report of early conflicts between the British and French empires in coastal Georgia in the early stages of the War of Jenkin’s Ear.

[EUROPEAN AND COLONIAL NEWS]. Boston Weekly News-Letter, January 31, 1740. Boston: John Draper. 2 pp., 13½ x 18½ in. Includes handwritten “Revd Mr Samll Cooke (at Bridger’s)” inscription in margin of first page.

Inventory #27367       Price: $3,250

Frederica in Georgia, November 30, 1739 / On the 13th Instant the Spaniards landed on the Island of Amelia, fell upon a Plantation there, and surprised two Highland Men, who being weak, after Sickness, were walking in the Woods, unarmed, the Spaniards fired a Volley of Shot upon them, and a Scout Boat that lay upon guard in the River, taking the Alarm, landed some Men, and a Party followed from the Fort; upon which the Spaniards retired very precipitately, but cut off and carried away the two Highland Men’s Heads, and cut and mangled their Bodies in a most barbarous Manner. The Alarm being given to / Fort St. Andres on the Island of Cumberland, Capt. Mackay who commands there sent Adjutant Hugh Mackay with a Party to reinforce the Garrison on Amelia, and guard the plantations....

The Advices arrived here on the 16th at Night. On the 17th a little before Noon, General Oglethorpe set out with four Rowing Boats, and reach’d the Fort of Amelia (which is 50 Miles from hence, tho’ the Wind was contrary) by ten at Night. As he passed by St. Andrews, he heard that there had been Guns fired, and that they believed Amelia was attacked; but on his arrival there, he found the Spaniards had not attacked them, but had kept their Numbers concealed in the Woods. By Day break he set out taking 2 more Boats and rowed round the Island, which is about 40 Miles in Circumference, to attack the Boats that had brought the Spaniards there, but finding none, he landed with 50 Men, and through the Island, and found the Spaniards Track, followed it 16 Miles through the Woods, to the Place where they had embarked on their Launches; which, as he afterwards heard, was about 2 Hours before his Boats had reached the South of the Island, their Scouts having discovered his Boats at dawn of Day. He returned hither on the 20th before Day. The Men having rowed 148 Miles, and marched 32 Miles by Land in the Space of two Days and a half.” (p1/c2-p2/c1)

Additional Content

  • A copy of the Preliminary Articles of Peace between Russia and the Ottoman Empire from September 1739 that brought the Russo-Turkish War of 1735-1739 to a conclusion (p1/c1-2);
  • a report from London with a description of a 64-foot-whale located on the Yorkshire coast, likely a blue whale: “His Penis was bigger than the largest Ling [fish of the cod family], and not unlike, the Head and Fin excepted.” (p1/c2);
  • a report of the funeral of Rev. John Adams (1705-1740) at Harvard College. Adams was a 1721 graduate of Harvard, a Congregational minister, a “master of nine languages,” and a poet: “The Character of this excellent Person, is too great to be compriz’d within the Limits of a Paper of Intelligence. It deserves to be engraven in Letters of Gold on a Monument of Marble....” (p2/c1);
  • a notice of the sudden death of Rev. Ebenezer Hancock (1710-1740) of Lexington, a 1728 graduate of Harvard, a pastor, and the uncle of future Patriot statesman, Declaration signer, and Governor of Massachusetts John Hancock (p2/c2);
  • a variety of notices and advertisements, including one for a book entitled Christmas Well Kept, and the Twelve Days Well Spent, based on extracts from George Whitefield’s journal of 1738-1739 (p2/c2)


Historical Background
Spanish coast guards in Cuba severed the ear of British Captain Robert Jenkins of the British brig Rebecca while searching his vessel for contraband in 1731. Eight years later, the incident was used by Parliament and the South Sea Company to support the War of Jenkins’ Ear with Spain over trading opportunities in the Caribbean. Unsuccessful British attacks on the ports of Cartagena [Colombia] and Havana [Cuba] in 1741 incurred heavy casualties.

The war extended to the British colony of Georgia, established in 1732, and Spanish possessions in Florida. In September 1739, King George II ordered Gov. James Oglethorpe of Georgia to “annoy the Subjects of Spain in the best manner” possible. Oglethorpe encouraged his Creek allies to attack the Spaniards and their Native American allies in Florida. After the encounters on the coast of Georgia detailed in this newspaper, he prepared the British 42nd Regiment of Foot, colonial militia from Georgia and the Carolinas, and allied Creek, Chickasaw, and Uchee warriors for a campaign. In May 1740, he launched an expedition against St. Augustine, first capturing four Spanish forts including the free black settlement of Fort Mose, populated primarily by fugitive slaves from the British colonies. In June, a 27-day bombardment of St. Augustine began. The Spanish managed to get supply ships through the British naval blockade, ruining the British plan to starve St. Augustine into submission. The British commodore refused to attack during hurricane season, and Oglethorpe gave up the siege and returned to Georgia.

By mid-1742, the War of Jenkin’s Ear merged into the European War of the Austrian Succession. Great Britain and Spain both focused on operations in Europe, so operations largely ceased in the Americas. The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748 ended both wars, largely restored the status quo antebellum, and temporarily improved relations between Great Britain and Spain.

The Boston Weekly News-Letter (1704-1776)is the oldest regularly published newspaper in America. In 1704, John Campbell, then postmaster at Boston, began publishing the Boston News-Letter. Appearing under similar names until 1765, when it briefly became the Massachusetts Gazette, before reverting in 1766 to The Massachusetts Gazette and Boston News-Letter. It continued in similar forms until 1776. In 1722, Bartholomew Green (d. 1732) took over as publisher. John Draper (d. 1762) published the newspaper from 1733 until his death, when his son Richard Draper (d. 1774) took over. The son went into partnership with John Boyle shortly before he died in 1774. His widow Margaret Draper and Boyle published it for a few months before Draper continued to publish it, perhaps in partnership with John Howe, during the British occupation of Boston.

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