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David Jewett

Colonel David Jewett is a notable figure in the history of the sovereignty dispute between Great Britain and Argentina as he commanded the Frigate Heroina that visited the Falkland Islands in 1820 and raised the first Argentine flag on the islands.

Jewett was born in New London (North Parish), Connecticut , United States, on 17 June 1772, and died 26 June 1842. He studied for a career in law and joined the United States Navy, where he commanded the 18 gun sloop-of-war USS Trumbull in the Quasi-War. Following the end of hostilities with France with the Treaty of Mortefontaine, Trumbull was paid off in 1801. Jewett left the Navy but rejoined during the War of 1812 against Britain, when he acted as a privateer.

After that conflict Colonel Jewett offered his services to the newly-independent United Provinces of the River Plate (later Argentina), which accepted his proposal and authorized his corsair activities against the Spanish; he was appointed a Colonel in the Argentine Navy.

He was given command of the frigate Heroina in 1820 and set out on a voyage marked by misfortune, a mutiny, and scurvy. Some 80 of his crew of 200 were either sick or dead by the time he arrived in October at Puerto Soledad . At anchor there he found some fifty British and U.S. sealing ships.

Captain Jewett chose to rest and recover in the islands seeking assistance from the British explorer James Weddell. Weddell reports only 30 seamen and 40 soldiers out of a crew of 200 fit for duty, and how Jewett slept with pistols over his head following an attempted mutiny. On 6 November 1820, Col Jewett raised the flag of the United Provinces of the River Plate and claimed possession of the islands. Weddell reports the letter he received from Jewett asWeddell, James, A Voyage Towards the South Pole, London, Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown and Green, 1827:

''Sir, I have the honor of informing you that I have arrived in this port with a commission from the Supreme Government of the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata to take possession of these islands on behalf of the country to which they belong by Natural Law. While carrying out this mission I want to do so with all the courtesy and respect all friendly nations; one of the objectives of my mission is to prevent the destruction of resources necessary for all ships passing by and forced to cast anchor here, as well as to help them to obtain the necessary supplies, with minimum expenses and inconvenience. Since your presence here is not in competition with these purposes and in the belief that a personal meeting will be fruitful for both of us, I invite you to come aboard, where you'll be welcomed to stay as long as you wish; I would also greatly appreciate your extending this invitation to any other British subject found in the vicinity; I am, respectfully yours.Signed, Jewett, Colonel of the Navy of the United Provinces of South America and commander of the frigate Heroina.

Many modern authors report this letter as the declaration issued by Jewett.Laurio H. Destefani, The Malvinas, the South Georgias and the South Sandwich Islands, the conflict with Britain, Buenos Aires, 1982 Weddell did not believe that Jewett was acting with the interests of the United Provinces of the River Plate in mind, rather Jewett had merely put into the harbour in order to obtain refreshments for his crew, and that the assumption of possession was chiefly intended for the purpose of securing an exclusive claim to the wreck of the French ship Uraniethat had a few months previously foundered at the entrance of Berkeley Sound. Weddell left the islands on 20 November 1820 noting that Jewett had not completed repairs to the Heroina.

Jewett had earlier crossed the line between privateer and pirate after taking the Portuguese ship Carlotaas a prize. On leaving the Falkland Islands he took the American Schooner Rampartas a prize causing a diplomatic incident with the United States of America. He was relieved of the command of the Heroinain February 1821.

Jewett subsequently entered the services of the Brazilian navy, ironically later in his career he found himself fighting against the forces of the United Provinces of the River Plate. Jewett died in Rio de Janeiro in 1842.


Child, Jack. Geopolitics and Conflict in South America: Quarrels Among Neighbors. New York; Praeger, 1985, pp. 112-115.

Gough, Barry. The Falkland Islands/Malvinas: The Contest for Empire in the South Atlantic. London: Athlone Press, 1992, pp. 55-59.

Strange, Ian J. The Falkland Islands''. London: David & Charles Press, 1983, p. 194.

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