Convention of Pardo

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For other treaties signed at the El Pardo palace, see Treaty of El Pardo.

The Convention of Pardo was a 1739 treaty between Great Britain and Spain designed to find a solution to the issues of smuggling, the Asiento and freedom of the seas that had strained relations between the two states for the past few decades, and was agreed to try to prevent war breaking out. It is also known as the Treaty of Pardo or the Convention of El Pardo.


Spanish authorities had been trying to enforce a ban on foreign ships trading with Spanish colonies in the West Indies and South America, and had arrested the crews of numerous British ships and punished some of them, such as the notable case of Robert Jenkins who had his ear cut off by Spanish Coast Guards. The issue provoked a surge of public opinion in Britain clamouring for a military solution. The Spanish were not in a position to fight at that moment, and were keen to avoid war till the 1740s when they were ready to defend their colonies against several incoming English attacks. The British cabinet, dominated by Sir Robert Walpole and the Duke of Newcastle also wanted to maintain peace to keep selling slaves to the Spanish colonies, and so the two sides met in Pardo to discuss terms.


Delegates from both sides met at the El Pardo palace in Madrid from late 1738. By January 1739 they had drawn up a basic agreement. The British had initially demanded £200,000 in compensation but ultimately reduced this claim to just £95,000. Spain had initially demanded unlimited rights to search vessels, but they had eventually agreed to territorial limits. Britain was also to pay Spain £68,000 in return for not-payment of proceeds from the Asiento. The signatories also agreed to further discussion of the boundaries of Georgia. The chief British negotiator Sir Benjamin Keene felt Britain had got a good deal from the Convention. It was signed on January 14.


Further information: War of Jenkins' Ear

The Convention met with a very unfavourable reception when it was presented in London. Many of the merchant captains were extremely unhappy that the British compensation claim had been more than halved, while the South Sea Company were concerned by the agreement allowing the Spanish limited rights to search British ships. Within months the situation had turned sharply towards war, and the Convention grew increasingly fragile. By the end of 1739 both Britain and Spain had violated the Convention, and in October 1739 formal war was declared beginning the War of Jenkins' Ear. The war later become submerged into the wider War of the Austrian Succession. The issues that had started the war were largely ignored during the Congress of Breda and the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle that ended it in 1748 as they were no longer priorities for the two sides.

Some issues were eventually resolved in the 1750 Treaty of Madrid, although illegal British trade with the Spanish colonies continued to flourish. The Spanish Empire in the Caribbean remained intact despite several English attempts to seize some of its colonies. Spain later used its trading routes and resources to help the rebels' cause in the American Revolution of the late 18th century.


  • Browning, Reed. The Duke of Newcastle. Yale University Press, 1975.
  • Rodger, N. A. M. The Command of the Ocean: A Naval History of Britain, 1649-1815.
  • Simms, Brendan. Three Victories and a Defeat: The Rise and Fall of the First British Empire. Penguin Books, 2008.

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