In 1731, a Spanish commander cut off the ear of British Captain Robert Jenkins and told him to take it to his King.
This began the War of Jenkins’ Ear.
British Admiral Edward Vernon, with George Washington’s half-brother, Lawrence, sailed to Panama and captured the Spanish city of Porto Bello, but failed to take Cartagena, Columbia.
In his honor, Washington named his farm Mount Vernon. When the War of Austrian Succession began in 1742, with Marie Theresa being the first woman to take Austria’s throne, Prussia and France entered the war.
In America, it was called King George’s War.
The British took the French city of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, in 1745, which had been New France’s second most important commercial city after Quebec, and the third busiest seaport in America, behind Boston and Philadelphia.
France wanted Louisbourg back, and in 1746, sent Admiral d’Anville with the most powerful fleet of its day: 73 ships with 800 cannons and 13,000 troops.
Admiral d’Anville intended to “expel the British from Nova Scotia, consign Boston to flames, ravage New England, and waste the British West Indies.”
Massachusetts Governor William Shirley declared a Day of Prayer and Fasting, October 16, 1746, to pray for deliverance.
Boston citizens gathered in the Old South Meeting House, where Rev. Thomas Prince prayed:
“Send Thy tempest, Lord, upon the water… scatter the ships of our tormentors!”
Historian Catherine Drinker Bowen related that as he finished praying, the sky darkened, winds shrieked and church bells rang “a wild, uneven sound…though no man was in the steeple.”
A hurricane scattered the entire French fleet as far as the Caribbean. Lightning struck several ships, igniting gunpowder magazines, causing explosions and fire.
With 2,000 dead, including Admiral d’Anville, and 4,000 sick with typhoid, French Vice-Admiral d’Estournelle threw himself on his sword.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote in his poem, The Ballad of the French Fleet:
“Admiral d’Anville had sworn by cross and crown,
To ravage with fire and steel our helpless Boston Town…
There were rumors in the street, in the houses there was fear
Of the coming of the fleet, and the danger hovering near.
And while from mouth to mouth, spread the tidings of dismay,
I stood in the Old South, saying humbly: ‘Let us pray!’
‘Oh Lord! we would not advise; but if in thy Providence
A tempest should arise, to drive the French Fleet hence,
And scatter it far and wide, or sink it in the sea,
We should be satisfied, and Thine the glory be…’
Like a potter’s vessel broke, the great ships of the line…
Were carried away as smoke…or sank in the brine.”
This great deliverance encouraged other colonies, as threats from France and Spain continued.
In 1747, a printer in Philadelphia named Ben Franklin organized Pennsylvania’s first “volunteer” militia and proposed a General Fast, which was approved by Pennsylvania’s President and Council, and published in the Pennsylvania Gazette, December 12, 1747:
“The calamities of a bloody war…seem every year more nearly to approach us…and there is just reason to fear that unless we humble ourselves before the Lord and amend our ways, we may be chastized with yet heavier judgments.
We have…thought fit…to appoint…a Day of Fasting & Prayer, exhorting all, both Ministers & People…to join with one accord in the most humble & fervent supplications that Almighty God would mercifully interpose and still the rage of war among the nations & put a stop to the effusion of Christian blood.”
The threat was averted and Philadelphia was spared an attack.
Self-Educated American contributing editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.
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