The Mosquito Indians first came into contact with the English when the Earl of Warwick established his colony at Providence Island in 1639, off the Central American Coast. He persuaded their King to send his son to England. This prince, known to his descendants as Oldman (or Oldham in old documents), was received in audience by King Charles I, who invested him with a hat of state and some instruments of insignia. He returned to the Mosquito Coast to find that his father had died during his absence, and that he was now King. His son and successor, Jeremy, visited Jamaica in February 1688 and placed himself and his people under English protection. Thereafter, all his successors were confirmed in their successions by virtue of a certificate of recognition from the Governor of Jamaica.
In the years that followed, small numbers of English and American settlers, escaped convicts and slaves, settled in several centres along the coast. Many of them intermarrying with the local tribes of Indians and leaving offspring who took part in the military and administrative affairs of the Mosquito kingdom. Relations between the Mosquitos and the Spanish had always been poor, but the increasing number of settlers increased tensions further. English commercial interest in hardwood logging in nearby Honduras exacerbated Spanish antagonism and apprehensions. Consequently, official British involvement in the region steadily increased. The Mosquito King and the British concluded a formal Treaty of Friendship and Alliance in 1740, followed by the appointment of a British Superintendent resident on the coast in 1749. His brief included the establishment of a more formal protectorate over the Mosquito nation, advising the King, codifying the laws and formalising a system of land grants.
The Mosquito’s were especially useful to the British during the American Revolutionary Wars. They attacked and harried the Spanish, who were then in league with the revolutionaries, and gained several significant victories alongside the regular British Forces. However, at the conclusion of the peace in 1783, the Britain had to relinquish control over the coast. Formal withdrawal was completed at the end of June 1787. Despite this withdrawal, Britain maintained an unofficial protectorate over the kingdom, often intervening to protect Mosquito interest against Spanish encroachments. Relations were always close, with a number of British advisers, teachers and missionaries continuing to serve on the coast. Several members of the Royal family received their education either in Jamaica, British Honduras, or England. Several kings were crowned according to Anglican rites at the Cathedral in Belize.
The rest of the nineteenth century simply saw the Mosquito Nation quietly strangled out of existence. In 1894 the Nicaraguans intervened on the pretext of a border dispute with Honduras, drove the young king out of his domains and extinguished his realm, then renamed the area the Department of Zelaya. He escaped aboard a British warship to Jamaica, where, in consideration of the old alliance, he received a government pension for the rest of his life. He died after an operation at the Kingston General Hospital, aged 34, and leaving an only daughter, who later settled in Belize. Great Britain acknowledged the full sovereignty of Nicaragua by a treaty concluded on 19th April 1905.It should be noted that there is some nonsense written about the Mosquito country being divided between three distinct authorities in three distinct regions under a hereditary Admiral, hereditary Governor, and a hereditary General, who shared power alongside the King. From this, some scholars have gone on to develop elaborate explanations and theories of Mosquito government, administration, ethnicity and tribal affiliation. In fact, these titles were conferred by commission on several senior officials by the Mosquito King, and were not restricted to either three individuals at any one time or to particular families. This is made obvious in the list of local representatives who attended and took part in the oath of submission at Woollang on 14th November 1815. They include among their number, one Governor (of Tobapec), three Generals, three Admirals, two Colonels, two Majors (all the former being also commandants of districts), and twenty-one Captains. The status of these individuals being little different from officers enjoying the same ranks in any other monarchy, and suggests a more organized military and administrative structure than some writers would have us believe.
Copyright©Christopher Buyers, June 2002 - September 2010