The Company of Asiento and the War of Jenkins’ear: With Special Emphasis on the Economic and Accounting Aspects
Rafael Donoso Ares
With the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713, the Asiento (agreement between sovereign ruler and private interests) passed into British hands, whose monarch would grant its privileges to the British South Sea Company. The Company would manage the trade, with many fluctuations, until the so-called War of Jenkins’ Ear, which broke out in 1739 and set the Spanish and the English Crowns at odds for a period of almost ten years, until the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle of 1748, which would lead in 1750 to a special treaty with England that would result in the definitive end of the Asiento. By the terms of the agreement, the Company was obliged to present accounts periodically to the Spanish Crown (which controlled one quarter of the trade). The key role played in the development of the trade by accountancy or, rather, the accounts repeatedly requested from the British South Sea Company has not been studied by historical research until now. This accountancy-based conflict combined with many other disputes that eventually led, as we will prove, to the War of Jenkins’ Ear in 1739. This struggle has been studied by some historians, among whose work we would emphasize that of Béthencourt Massieu (1989, 1998), one of the few scholars to point out that, in addition to the political and diplomatic reasons for the conflict between the two nations, one should also include “that of the frequent accounting petitions by Philip V and the payment of his benefits in accordance with the terms stated by the treaties” (1998, p. 184). In this paper we analyze some causes which gave rise to the war between Spain and England, with special emphasis on the economic and accounting aspects derived from the commercial relations and economic interests held by the Spanish Crown in the formal agreements developed by the slave trade. Ultimately, the inflexible attitude of the British South Sea Company was the main factor leading to the armed conflict.
Accounting History; Asiento and/Accounting; War and Accounting; Economics-Politics-Diplomacy and Accounting.
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