Three Brothers at Havana

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Sonia Keppel

On the outbreak of the 'War of Jenkins's Ear' with Spain in 1739, an anonymous writer suggested to the British government that the main priority should be the conquest and occupation of Cuba. 'By conquering and settling Cuba with the inhabitants of our Northern and sugar colonies, we may recover the Trade of the Spanish West Indies; stop the progress of our Northern Colonies to Independency, by removing their wealthiest inhabitants to Cuba; and monopolising the sugar-Trade of the world'.

The writer's advice was not taken; but equally covetous if more limited ambitions were expressed by Commodore the Hon Augustus Keppel, when addressing the crew of his flagship leading the naval assault on Havana. 'Courage, my lads! The day is ours. The Admiral has given us leave to take younder town, with all the Treasure in it; so we have nothing to do now, but make our fortune as fast as we can, for the place can never hold out against us. The purser will give every brave fellow a can of punch, to drink prosperity to Old England... We shall all be as rich as Jews. The place is paved with gold' – an announcement which was greeted with understandable enthusiasm by the crew. After news of the capture of Havana reached England, the Duke of Cumberland wrote to Lord Albemarle expressing the hope that his share of the booty would 'make you as rich as Creses [Croesus]'.

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