Of Note: Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra’s Nootka Sound Journal

This guest post is by Manuscript Division historian and early America specialist Julie Miller.

In 1792, when the United States was in its infancy and the Spanish empire still claimed the American continents’ entire Pacific coast, a Spanish naval officer named Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra sailed from his base at San Blas, Mexico, to the Nootka Peninsula, on the west coast of present-day Vancouver Island, British Columbia. One of three surviving contemporary copies of the journal Bodega kept of that voyage, and of his posting at Nootka Sound, is in the Manuscript Division. The journal, which has been published in its original Spanish and in English translation, is a valuable record of the landscape, plants, creatures, and people Bodega saw at Nootka, and while traveling up the coast. It also documents competing Spanish, British, and Native claims over Nootka Sound and its most valuable contribution to the China trade, sea otter skins.[1]

Argument taking place among men on crowded skiffs, with larger sailing vessels and mountains in background

The Spanish Insult to the British Flag at Nootka Sound,” [1789]. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Bodega was born in 1743, the same year as Thomas Jefferson, in Lima, Peru. In 1789, after a period in Spain, he was appointed as commandant of Spain’s naval department at San Blas, Mexico, and sailed to his new post with the viceroy of New Spain, Count Juan Vicente Güémez Pacheco de Padilla Horcasitas y Aguayo Revillagigedo (1740-1799). Revillagigedo chose Bodega to help resolve a struggle between Britain and Spain over control of Nootka Sound and its valuable sea otters. This struggle, known as the Nootka Crisis, began in 1789 when Spain seized ships belonging to a British fur trader at Nootka. It was resolved by the Nootka Convention between Britain and Spain on October 28, 1790. In 1792 Bodega sailed up the Pacific coast from San Blas to Nootka to meet with British naval officer George Vancouver (1757-1798) to implement the terms of the Nootka Convention on behalf of Spain.[2]

The journal records Bodega’s meetings with Vancouver and with representatives of the people they called the Nootka, now known as the Nuu-chah-nulth, including Maquinna (died ca.1825-1827), the region’s dominant political leader.[3] The Nuu-chah-nulth, who had inhabited the area for at least four thousand years, probably encountered Europeans for the first time in 1774 when Spanish ship captain Juan Perez arrived at Nootka Sound. In 1778, Britain’s Captain James Cook visited, and by 1792, British, American, Portuguese, and other trading ships regularly came and went. Among these were the Columbia, captained by Robert Gray (1755-1806), and the Hope, captained by Joseph Ingraham (1762-1800). The logbooks of the Columbia and the Hope are also in the Manuscript Division, and their authors’ voices add perspective to Bodega’s descriptions of the people and events at Nootka Sound during the period of negotiations.[4]

Handwritten map showing Nootka Sound and Vancouver Island coastlines, with place names included

A portion of Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra’s map showing Vancouver Island and Nootka Sound. “Carta de los descrubrimientos hechos en la costa N.O. de la America Septentrional,” 1792. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

While Bodega and his crew were engaged in diplomacy, they were also making scientific, cultural, meteorological, and geographical observations, and these appear in his Nootka Sound journal as well. Several of Bodega’s maps of North America’s Northwest Coast are in the Library’s Geography and Map Division.[5] His crew included naturalist José Mariano Moziño (1757-1820), who compiled a Spanish-Nuu-chah-nulth vocabulary of several hundred words. Moziño also compiled a list of more than four hundred animals, birds, fish, reptiles, and plants. Bodega included Moziño’s lists in his manuscript journal, and Moziño published them separately, along with his detailed observations of the Nuu-chah-nulth, in his own book Noticias de Nutka.[6]

Bodega composed the journal on his voyage back to Mexico. He sent the original to Viceroy Revillagigedo, who had it copied: one for himself, and several more that he sent to Spain. Today one of these copies is at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. Another is at the Archives and Library of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation in Madrid. The copy at the Library of Congress is the one that the viceroy had made for himself.[7] It remains a valuable original record of British and Spanish imperial competition on North America’s Northwest Coast at a time when the United States, on the opposite end of the continent, was less than a decade old, and of the people and landscape of Vancouver Island.

For further study of Bodega and other people and places mentioned in this post, please consult the following Manuscript Division holdings:

Juan de la Bodega y Quadra Journal, 1792-1793, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
Published versions include Freeman M. Tovell, Voyage to the Northwest Coast of America, 1792: Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra and the Nootka Sound Controversy (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012); Salvador Bernabeu Albert, Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra: El Descubrimiento del fin del Mundo (1775-1792) (Madrid: Alianza, 1990); and Nutka 1792: Viaje a la Costa Noroeste de la América Septentrional por Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra . . . (Madrid: Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores de España, Dirección General de Relaciones Culturales y Científicas, 1998).

Columbia (Ship: 1787-1801) Logbook, 1790-1792, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
Robert Gray (1755-1806), captain of the Columbia, met Juan de la Bodega y Quadra at Nootka. This logbook was kept by crew members Robert Haswell (1768-1801) and Owen Smith (active 1790). Published in Frederic W. Howay, ed., Voyages of the Columbia to the Northwest Coast, 1787-1790 and 1790-1793 (Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press, in cooperation with the Massachusetts Historical Society, 1990).

Joseph Ingraham Journal, 1790-1792, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
Joseph Ingraham (1762-1800), a Boston merchant and fur trader, crossed paths with Juan de la Bodega y Quadra at Nootka. His journal, kept on the brigantine Hope, has been digitized by the Library of Congress, and a published version is also available: Mark D. Kaplanoff, ed., Journal of the Brigantine Hope on a Voyage to the Northwest Coast of North America, 1790-92 (Barre, MA: Imprint Society, 1971).

Nootka Sound controversy records in Spanish, British, and French archives, 1780s-1790s.
One volume containing reproductions and transcripts of documents concerning the Nootka Crisis from originals in British, French, and Spanish archives.

Conde de Revillagigedo collection, 1794.
Two volumes containing transcripts of documents concerning Juan Vicente Güémez Pacheco de Padilla Horcasitas y Aguayo, conde de Revillagigedo (1740-1799), viceroy of New Spain.

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[1] Juan de la Bodega y Quadra Journal, 1792-1793, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Freeman M. Tovell, Voyage to the Northwest Coast of America, 1792: Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra and the Nootka Sound Controversy (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012). Salvador Bernabeu Albert, Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra: El Descubrimiento del fin del Mundo (1775-1792) (Madrid: Alianza, 1990).  Nutka 1792: Viaje a la Costa Noroeste de la América Septentrional por Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra . . . (Madrid: Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores de España, Dirección General de Relaciones Culturales y Científicas, 1998). Also see Freeman Tovell, At the Far Reaches of Empire: The Life of Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2008).

[2] Robert J. King, “George Vancouver and the Contemplated Settlement at Nootka Sound,” The Great Circle 32 (2010): 6-34; Tovell, Voyage to the Northwest Coast, 23-55.

[3] Richard Inglis and James C. Haggarty, “Cook to Jewitt: Three Decades of Change in Nootka Sound,” in Alan L. Hoover, ed., Nuu-chah-nulth Voices, Histories, Objects & Journeys (Victoria: Royal British Columbia Museum, 2000), 94.  Also in Hoover, Nuu-chah-Nulth Voices, R. M. Galois, “Nuu-chah-nulth Encounters: James Colnett’s Expedition of 1787-88,” 72, and Richard Inglis, James C. Haggarty, and Kevin Neary, “Yuquot Agenda Paper: Mowachaht First Nations,” 11, 31. James Cook, A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean. Undertaken, by the Command of His Majesty, for Making Discoveries in the Northern Hemisphere . . . (London: Printed by W. and A. Strahan, for G. Nicol, & T. Cadell, 1784), Cook’s book is digitized at the Library of Congress. Edward S. Curtis photographed the Nuu-chah-nulth (then known as Nootka) people in the early twentieth century. His prints and other images of Nootka are in the Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Search at this link.

[4] Columbia (Ship: 1787-1801) Logbook, 1790-1792, kept by crew members Robert Haswell and Owen Smith, and Joseph Ingraham Journal, 1790-1792, kept aboard the Hope, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.

[5] Bodega’s maps from this and other voyages (manuscripts, copies, and published editions) are in the Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

[6] José Mariano Moziño, Noticias de Nutka: An Account of Nootka Sound in 1792, translated and edited by Iris H. Wilson Engstrand (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1991).

[7] Tovell, Voyage to the Northwest Coast, 15-16.

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