When Britain Ruled Manila

Britain’s Short Reign: The British Invasion of Manila (Part 3)

The flag of the British East India Company raised over the conquered city of Manila.

After the conquest of the capital, we can already imagine that the flags of the East India Company were seen waving triumphantly. And for the first time in almost 250 years, the Filipinos were now seeing a different symbol of power. They saw with their own eyes that the powerful Spaniards were easily defeated by the British.

The British Occupation of Manila, 1762 – 1764

On November 2, Dawsonne Drake was appointed British Governor-General of the Philippines by the East India Company. Drake previously governed Fort Saint George at the coastal city of Madras from 1742 to 1762. He was to become the first and last Governor-General of Manila under British rule.

Perhaps unexpectedly, daily life was not hampered under British occupation. There was free movement of day-to-day activities among the local citizens. Even the practice of their Roman Catholic faith was not disrupted despite the Protestant nature of Great Britain’s faith.

When Manila fell to the British Crown, Simón de Anda y Salazar, lieutenant governor of the Spanish colonial government, transferred the seat of government to Bacolor in the province of Pampanga. He took a decisive action to re-organise what was left of the Spanish colonial function since Archbishop Rojo was practically ineffective as acting governor-general.

Former director of the National Museum of the Philippines, Eulogio B. Rodriguez wrote the following about Anda:

He was auditor and was appointed by the Audiencia as lieutenant of the governor and captain-general. But in 1762 when the English attacked Manila under the administration of Archbishop Rojo, Anda did not like to submit under the authority of the English because he believed that subjecting himself to them was tantamount to surrendering the sovereignty, prestige, honor and glory of Spain. So he moved to Bacolor, Pampanga, where he proclaimed himself governor and recruited men for his army. He stopped the sending of food to the city in order to starve the British in Manila.

Governor Anda’s choice of Bacolor was strategically crucial. According to Robby Tantingco, director of the Center for Kapampangan Studies,

Bacolor was a perfect choice to host Anda’s refugee government because it was far enough to escape British attack but not too far to stage a counter-attack against the British.

Tantingco further added,

Bacolor was also home to the people who would be perfect for the resistance that Anda was organizing: the brave and loyal Kapampangans (Pampangos).

The defiant Anda launched a campaign to re-capture the territories taken by the British. A resistance group of 10,000 was successfully organised mainly composed of Pampango volunteers. Unable to expand their control over the surrounding provinces, the British found themselves confined to Manila and Cavite in an unfavourable situation. Thus their promise to support Diego Silang’s revolutionary campaign against the Spaniards went unfulfilled.

Related Story: When Britain Sailed to Manila

The End of the Conflict

Back in Europe, two treaties were signed in February 1763. One between Austria and Prussia and the other one between Britain and France (with Spain of course). Part of the agreement was to hand over the territories Britain took from Spain. Therefore Havana and Manila were again under the Spanish crown.

Due to already mentioned problem in communication (see When Britain Sailed to Manila), it was only during the peace settlement that Spain learned about what happened to Manila. Perhaps the Spaniards were stunned to hear that Manila will be handed back to them without knowing that the colony was taken. The capital remained under British rule for another year until the news of the treaty arrived. Maybe remoteness was another factor.

And in April 1764, British Rule was withdrawn. When the British left the country, they took with them the partial payment of the Ransom of Manila. The ransom consisted of treasury funds of the government, various treasure chests of churches, and gold and other precious items of religious houses. The Archbishop issued an informal certificate of indebtedness to temporarily cover for the unpaid portion of the ransom. However, Spain did not recognise the IOU thus the outstanding amount was left unpaid.

Related Story: When Britain Conquered Manila

Before leaving Manila, the British made two important gestures of courtesy. One, the British authority invited all (mainly locals) who wanted to make claims or complaints against its occupation. These people came forward and received justice and payment. And two, the British made sure that an arrangement was made with the newly arrived Spanish governor-general to issue full pardon to the Chinese who took side with the British.

All the treasury items, money, and plunders were handed over to the East India Company in Madras. The British Parliament honoured both the Rear-Admiral and the Brigadier-General. William Draper became Knight Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1765 while Samuel Cornish was given the title First Baronet in 1766. A baronet is the holder of a baronetcy, a hereditary title awarded by the British Crown.

Related Story: When Britain Left Manila

The British Rule was indeed short but it was profoundly significant. It created a fossilised ripple in Philippine history. It inspired the contemporary Filipino leaders at that time to make serious re-thinking about the country’s loyalty to the Spanish crown.

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