Distant Dominion: Britain and the Northwest Coast of North America, 1579-1809

By Barry M. Gough | Go to book overview

4
Spanning the Pacific

In the half century of busy and enterprising exertion in every field of activity which has elapsed since his death, no newer name in the same department has yet eclipsed the lustre of his, and with reference to the peculiar character of his fame, as contrasted with that of our other renowned seamen, it has been well and justly remarked that, "while numberless have been our naval heroes who have sought and gained reputation at the cannon's mouth, and amidst the din of war, it has been the lot of Cook to derive celebrity from less imposing, but not less important exploits, as they tended to promote the intercourse of distant nations, and increase the stock of useful science."

THE PENNY MAGAZINE OF THE SOCIETY
FOR THE DIFFUSION OF USEFUL KNOWLEDGE
.
20 October 1832

Cook's epoch-making navigation of the North Pacific rim including Oregon, Nootka Sound, Cook Inlet, Unalaska, Kamchatka, Japan and ultimately Macao opened the maritime fur trade. This commerce was probably the first America‐ to-Asia trade in the latitude of the British Columbia coast: it did not predate the Russian trade from Alaska nor the Spanish commerce via the Manila galleon. It did not precede any aboriginal seaborne traffic with the Orient, if ever such existed. But Cook's voyage did inaugurate an important sea link between North American ports and the markets of China, one which in time would be superseded by an Asiatic desire for other staples, particularly wheat and minerals. This trade grew from small beginnings, and what seems particularly unusual is that it did not begin due to the efforts of merchants in the City of London or even by some preliminary trade mission authorized by the government, but rather by accident, and its repercussions were greater than Cook's men could have imagined.

At Nootka Sound trade was virtually thrust upon the officers and crew of H.M.S. Resolution and Discovery by the Indians. Even before the ships entered the harbour's inner reaches, natives had approached the vessels crying "Macook?"—"will you trade?" Out of custom, officers, midshipmen, and sailors bound for the Pacific took nails, knives, and trinkets with them to buy sexual favour or friendship and to acquire food and clothing. In every crew there were always curio hunters wishing to purchase items as souvenirs of their personal penetration into new and far-off lands. In all, it constituted a petty trade the like of which may still be carried on by travellers in the depths of the Brazilian jungle

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Distant Dominion: Britain and the Northwest Coast of North America, 1579-1809
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Distant Dominion - Britain and the Northwest Coast of North America, 1579-1809 *
  • Contents *
  • Photographic Credits *
  • Illustrations *
  • Preface *
  • 1: Tyranny of Distance *
  • 2: Pacific Probes *
  • 3: Cook's Reconnaissance *
  • 4: Spanning the Pacific *
  • 5: The Fortune Seekers *
  • 6: Beachhead of Empire *
  • 7: Imperial Dreams and False Starts *
  • 8: Conflicts of Ambition *
  • 9: Dealing with the Dons *
  • 10: The Surveyor-Diplomats *
  • 11: The Overlanders *
  • Epilogue *
  • Abbreviations *
  • Notes *
  • Note on Sources *
  • Select Bibliography *
  • Index *
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