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Sunday, June 30, 2013

British Occupation of Manila-Forgotten Episode in Philippine History

Do you know that the Philippines was under British rule for two years from 1762 to 1764? Read on if you are a history enthusiast.

The British Occupation of Manila between 1762 and 1764 was an episode in Philippine colonial history when the Kingdom of Great Britain occupied the Spanish colonial capital of Manila and the nearby principal port of Cavite. This episode in Philippine history was not emphasized in Philippine History books during my high school days.

The resistance from the provisional Spanish colonial government established by members of the Royal Audience of Manila and their Filipino allies prevented British forces from taking control of territory beyond the neighboring towns of Manila and Cavite and Isabela Province in the North. The British occupation was ended as part of the peace settlement of the Seven Years' War. Here's more information from Wikipedia on this forgotten episode in the Spanish colonization of the Philippines. As a history enthusiast, I found this very interesting, indeed!

Offensive actions: Battle of Manila (1762)

On 24 September 1762, a British fleet of eight ships of the line, three frigates, and four store ships with a force of 6,839 regulars, sailors and marines, sailed into Manila Bay from Madras. The expedition, led by Brigadier-General William Draper and Rear-Admiral Samuel Cornish, captured Manila, "the greatest Spanish fortress in the western Pacific".

The Spanish defeat was not really surprising. Former Governor-General of the Philippines, Pedro Manuel de Arandia, had died in 1759 and his replacement, Brigadier Francisco de la Torre had not arrived because of the British attack on Havana in Cuba. The Spanish Crown appointed the Mexican-born Archbishop of Manila Manuel Rojo del Rio y Vieyra as temporary Lieutenant Governor. In part, because the garrison was commanded by the Archbishop, instead of by a military expert, many mistakes were made by the Spanish forces.

On 5 October 1762 (4 October local calendar), the night before the fall of the walled city of Manila, the Spanish military persuaded Rojo to summon a council of war. Several times the archbishop wished to capitulate, but was prevented. By very heavy battery fire that day, the British had successfully breached the walls of the bastion San Diego, dried up the ditch, dismounted the cannons of that bastion and the two adjoining bastions, San Andes and San Eugeno, set fire to parts of the town, and drove the Spanish forces from the walls. At dawn of October 6, British forces attacked the breach and took the fortifications meeting with little resistance.

During the siege the Spanish military lost three officers, two sergeants, 50 troops of the line, and 30 civilians of the militia, besides many wounded. Among the natives there were 300 killed and 400 wounded. The besiegers suffered 147 killed and wounded, of whom 16 were officers. The fleet fired upon the city more than 5,000 bombs, and more than 20,000 balls.

Occupation of Manila

Once Manila fell to British troops, the churches and government offices were ransacked, valuables were taken and historical documents such as Augustinian records, government documents and even the copper plates for the grand 18th-century Murillo Velarde map of the Philippines were ransacked along with the naval stores at the Cavite Naval Yard, the paintings in the Governor General’s Palace, the contents of Intramuros churches and the possessions of most wealthy houses. Rape, homicide and vandalism also rampaged through the city in what is known as the first "Rape of Manila". The British demanded a ransom of four million dollars from the Spanish government to stop the plundering of the city, to which Archbishop Rojo agreed in order to avoid further destruction.

On 2 November 1762, Dawsonne Drake of the British East India Company assumed gubernatorial office as the British Governor of Manila. He was assisted by a council of four, consisting of John L. Smith, Claud Russel, Henry Brooke and Samuel Johnson. Villacorta managed to escape. When after several attempts Drake realised that he wasn't getting as many assets that he expected, he formed a War Council that he named Chottry Court, with absolute power to imprison anyone who he wished. Many Spaniards, Latinos, Mestizos, Chinese, Indians and native Malays were brought into prisons for crimes, that as denounced by Captain Thomas Backhouse, were "only known to himself.


In the meantime the Royal Audience of Manila had organized a war council and dispatched Oidor Don Simón de Anda y Salazar to the provincial town of Bulacan to organize continued resistance to the British. The Real Audencia also appointed Anda as Lieutenant Governor and Visitor-General. That night Anda took a substantial portion of the treasury and official records with him, departing Fort Santigo through the postern of Our Lady of Solitude, to a boat on the Pasig River, and then to Bulacan. He moved headquarters from Bulacan to Bacolor, Pampanga, which was more secure, and quickly obtained the powerful support of the Augustinians.

Anda eventually raised an army which amounted to over 10,000 combatants, most of them voluntary natives, and although they lacked enough modern weapons, they were successful in keeping the British forces confined to Manila. On 8 October 1762 Anda wrote to Rojo informing him that Anda had assumed the position of Governor and Capitan-General under statutes of the Council of the Indies which allowed for the devolution of authority from the Governor to the Audiencia in cases of riot or invasion by foreign forces, as such was the case. Anda, being the highest member of the Audiencia not captive by the British, assumed all powers and demanded the royal seal. Rojo declined to surrender it and refused to recognise Anda as Governor-General.

The surrender agreement between Archbishop Rojo and the British military guaranteed the Roman Catholic religion and its episcopal government, secured private property, and granted the citizens of the former Spanish colony the rights of peaceful travel and of trade 'as British subjects'. Under British control, the Philippines would continue to be governed by the Real Audencia, the expenses of which were to be paid by Spain. However, Anda refused to recognize any of the agreements signed by Rojo as valid, claiming that the Archbishop has been made to sign them by force, and therefore, according to the statutes of the Council of the Indies, they were invalid. He also refused to negotiate with the invaders until he was addressed as the legal Governor-General of the Philippines, returning to the British the letters that were not addressed to that effect. All of these initiatives were later approved by the King of Spain, who rewarded him and other members of the Audiencia, such as José Basco y Vargas, who had fought against the invaders.

The isolated British force proved insufficient. Severe disagreements then broke out between Dawsonne Drake and the military commanders who replaced Draper and Cornish, preventing either effective military action or fruitful negotiations with Anda. In the year 1763, the hacienda Buenavista is the supplier of food in Intramuros, they also selling cow’s meat to the British Government. The hacienda was given an order to mark the cow’s meat so that they could count and sold it properly according to the needs of the British Government. The British tried to persuade the Filipino workers to revolt against the friars in the Hacienda. British rule ended at the end of the Seven Years War. Reference:

Personal Note: Can you imagine what the Philippines would be right now if the British were successful in ruling the whole island from Spain. Perhaps we will have more British names than Spanish derived names. We would be predominantly Episcopalians instead of Roman Catholics. Would you like that? Just a thought!

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