When Britain Sailed to Manila

The European Origin: The British Invasion of Manila (Part 1)

The far-reaching consequences of the Anglo-Spanish conflict extended globally to their respective imperial territories.

Still unknown to many Filipinos is the historical fact that we were invaded by Britain in 1762. Well, not the archipelago entirely but Manila and Cavite particularly. This event in our history took place due to Spain’s familial but secretive affair with France during the Seven Years’ War (1756 – 1763) in Europe.

The European Root

The Seven Years’ War was fought between two great alliances of empires and kingdoms. On one side, the alliance was mainly composed of Great Britain, Prussia, and Portugal. The opposing side form the greater power in Europe at that time, which was made up of France, the Holy Roman Empire of the day (Austria, Saxony, and Bavaria), Russia, Sweden, and Spain. Looking at it geographically, the war seems to carry a sense of resemblance to ‘The Great War.’

Spain however joined late in the conflict because King Ferdinand VI avoided involvement. When the king died in 1759 and his younger brother Charles III succeeded the throne, Spain’s decision to remain neutral was overturned.

On 15 August 1761 King Louis XV of France secured an alliance with King Charles III of Spain through The Third Pacte de Famille at the Treaty of Paris since both Bourbon monarchs were first cousins. It was said that the Spanish monarch signed the Family Compact out of great fear that a British victory over the French would tilt the scale of power against his favour.

As a result of this family agreement, Naples and Tuscany were brought into the fray since they were Spain’s allies. As agreed, Spain would join much later in the war against Britain in May 1762 if France and Britain are still at war by then. Soon after the agreement, Spain already made preparations to wage war against Britain.

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The Anglo-Spanish Conflict, 1762 – 1763

After learning this ‘secret’ family agreement Britain pre-emptively declared war against Spain on 2 January 1762. Thus Spain ‘prematurely’ got involved in the actual war. It seemed that the Anglo-Spanish conflict was again inevitable. The destructive effect of their conflict had far-reaching consequences extending globally to their respective imperial territories. Their war dragged the Philippines into the maelstrom.

The role of the East India Company under the British crown in India was undeniably important to the empire’s war campaign. It was Great Britain’s commercial trading centre for Asia, Southeast Asia, and India. Aside from this, the company also served as a centre of military operations for imperial expansion, hence it was strategically convenient for Britain to send forces to anywhere in the east.

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William Draper, still a Lieutenant-Colonel at that time, appeared before the highest officials in London and proposed to invade Manila. The plan was to deploy an expeditionary force from India to launch a surprise attack on Manila.

An unexpected invasion can be carried out since communication between Spain and Manila by way of Mexico takes much longer time than between London and India. Since Manila was governed through the office of the Viceroyalty of New Spain whose seat resided in Mexico City, so any news for Manila must come by way of Mexico.

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All factors considered Draper’s proposal was approved. And on 1 August 1762 an expeditionary force was sent to Manila under the command of Rear-Admiral Samuel Cornish and the newly appointed Brigadier-General William Draper.

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