Spain declares war against Great Britain - HISTORY
Year
1779

Spain declares war against Great Britain

On this day in 1779, Spain declares war on Great Britain, creating a de facto alliance with the Americans.

Spain’s King Charles III would not consent to a treaty of alliance with the United States. For one imperial power to encourage another imperial power’s colonies in revolt was a treacherous game, and he was unwilling to play. However, French Foreign Minister Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes, managed to negotiate a treaty with Spain to join their war against the British. As the ally of the United States’ ally, Spain managed to endorse the revolt at a critical diplomatic distance.

The American Revolution had already spawned a world war between the two international powers of Britain and France. Spain’s entry into the imbroglio ensured that the British would have to spread their resources even thinner. King Charles wanted to reclaim Gibraltar for Spain and secure Spanish borders in North America and the Spanish immediately laid siege to Gibraltar at the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea. The British managed to drive the Spanish from Gibraltar on February 7, 1783, having constructed an 82-foot-long tunnel into the north face of the rock of Gibraltar, known as the “Notch,” in order to supply it with cannon. However, King Charles succeeded in his North American goals. The Spanish took West Florida by force and attained East Florida by cession when the War for Independence ended; they were also able to secure the Gulf of Mexico.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

French defeated in Spain

At Vitoria, Spain, a massive allied British, Portuguese, and Spanish force under British General Arthur Wellesley routs the French, effectively ending the Peninsular War.On February 16, 1808, under the pretext of sending reinforcements to the French army occupying Portugal, ...read more

Pershing attacked by Mexican troops

The controversial U.S. military expedition against Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa brings the United States and Mexico closer to war when Mexican government troops attack U.S. Brigadier General John J. Pershing’s force at Carrizal, Mexico. The Americans suffered 22 casualties, ...read more

Civil rights workers disappear

In Neshoba County in central Mississippi, three civil rights field workers disappear after investigating the burning of an African American church by the Ku Klux Klan. Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, both white New Yorkers, had traveled to heavily segregated Mississippi in ...read more

U.S. Constitution ratified

New Hampshire becomes the ninth and last necessary state to ratify the Constitution of the United States, thereby making the document the law of the land.By 1786, defects in the post-Revolutionary War Articles of Confederation were apparent, such as the lack of central authority ...read more

Rolling Thunder raids continue

U.S. planes strike North Vietnamese petroleum-storage facilities in a series of devastating raids. These missions were part of Operation Rolling Thunder, which had been launched in March 1965 after President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered a sustained bombing campaign of North Vietnam. ...read more

Communists storm U.S. base near Tay Ninh

Approximately 600 communist soldiers storm a U.S. base near Tay Ninh, 50 miles northwest of Saigon and 12 miles from the Cambodian border. The North Vietnamese had been shelling the base for two days, followed by six attacks on the city itself and the surrounding villages. About ...read more

Pele leads Brazil over Italy

On June 21, 1970, Brazil, led by soccer legend Pele, wins its third World Cup championship with a 4-1 victory over Italy. The game, at Aztec Stadium in Mexico City, was attended by 112,000 spectators, most of whom could but marvel at the spectacular play Pele and the Brazilians ...read more

Arthur Miller refuses to name communists

Playwright Arthur Miller defies the House Committee on Un-American Activities and refuses to name suspected communists.Miller’s defiance of McCarthyism won him a conviction for contempt of court, which was later reversed by the Supreme Court. His passport had already been denied ...read more

Pickford and Fairbanks mobbed by crowds

Swarms of admirers mob the Hollywood film actors Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, who arrive in London on their honeymoon on this day in 1920. Two of film’s earliest stars, Pickford and Fairbanks had been business partners since 1919, when they teamed up with Charlie Chaplin ...read more

Earthquake devastates Iran

An earthquake near the Caspian Sea in Iran kills more than 50,000 and injures another 135,000 people on this day in 1990. The 7.7-magnitude tremor wrecked havoc on the simply constructed houses in the area. Thirty minutes past midnight, with most people sleeping in their homes, ...read more

The KKK kills three civil rights activists

Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney are killed by a Ku Klux Klan lynch mob near Meridian, Mississippi. The three young civil rights workers were working to register black voters in Mississippi, thus inspiring the ire of the local Klan. The deaths of Schwerner and ...read more

French withdraw navy from NATO

The French government shocks its allies by announcing that it is withdrawing its navy from the North Atlantic fleet of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The French action was viewed in the West as evidence that France would be pursuing an independent policy regarding ...read more

Grant extends the Petersburg line

On this day, Union General Ulysses S. Grant stretches his lines further around Petersburg, Virginia, accompanied by his commander-in-chief, Abraham Lincoln. After six weeks of heavy fighting between his Army of the Potomac and Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in a series ...read more