Nootka Convention

The Nootka Sound Conventions were a series of three agreements between the Kingdom of Spain and the Kingdom of Great Britain, signed in the 1790s, which averted a war between the two empires over overlapping claims to portions of the Pacific Northwest coast of North America. The inhabitants of the region were not consulted by either European kingdom.

Nootka Sound Conventions
DateNootka Sound Convention: October 28, 1790

Nootka Claims Convention: February 12, 1793,

Convention for the Mutual Abandonment of Nootka: January 11, 1794
LocationMadrid, Spain
Also known asNootka Sound Convention, Nootka Claims Convention, Convention for the Mutual Abandonment of Nootka
ParticipantsSpain, Great Britain
OutcomeBritain and Spain were guaranteed freedom of the seas

Claims of Spain

The claims of Spain dated back nearly 300 years to the papal bull of 1493 that, along with the following Treaty of Tordesillas, defined and delineated a zone of Spanish rights exclusive of Portugal. In relation to other states the agreement was legally ineffective (res inter alios acta). Spain interpreted it in the widest possible sense, deducing that it gave them full sovereignty. Other European powers did not recognize the Inter caetera, and even Spain and Portugal only adhered to it when it was useful and convenient.[1] Britain's claims to the region were dated back to the voyage of Sir Francis Drake in 1579, and also by right of prior discovery by Captain James Cook in 1778, although the Spanish had explored and claimed the region in 1774, under Juan Pérez, and in 1775, under Bruno de Heceta and Bodega y Quadra.

Disputed sovereignty

The Nootka Sound dispute began in 1789 when Spain sent José Martínez to occupy Nootka Sound and establish exclusive Spanish sovereignty. During the summer of 1789 a number of fur trading vessels, British and American, arrived at Nootka. A conflict over sovereignty arose between the captain of the British Argonaut, James Colnett, and Martínez. By the end of the summer Martínez had arrested Colnett, seized several British ships, and arrested their crews. Colnett had come to Nootka Sound intending to build a permanent trading post and colony on land previously acquired by his business associate John Meares. At the end of the summer Martínez abandoned Nootka and took the captured ships and prisoners to San Blas, New Spain. The news about these events triggered a confrontation between Spain and Britain known as the Nootka Crisis, which nearly led to war.

Nootka Conventions

The Nootka Conventions of the 1790s, carried out in part by George Vancouver and his Spanish counterpart Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra, prevented the dispute from escalating to war. The first Convention was signed on October 28, 1790.[2] and was purposefully vague. Its preamble contained the statement, "setting aside all retrospective discussions of the rights and pretensions of the two parties...". Its first article said that all "the buildings and tracts of land" at Nootka Sound that had been seized by Martínez would be restored to Britain. For this purpose Vancouver and Bodega y Quadra were sent to Nootka Sound in 1792. However, no buildings had been seized and Bodega said no land had been acquired by the British, as attested by the indigenous chief Maquinna as well as the American traders Robert Gray and Joseph Ingraham, who were present in 1789.[3] Vancouver was unwilling to accept Bodega's various counter-offers and the whole matter was sent back to the British and Spanish governments.[4]

First Nootka Convention

The first Nootka Convention plays a role in the disputed sovereignty of the Falkland Islands between the United Kingdom and Argentina. Article VI provided that neither party would form new establishments on any of the islands adjacent to the east and west coasts of South America then occupied by Spain. Both retained the right to land and erect temporary structures on the coasts and islands for fishery-related purposes. However, there was an additional secret article that stipulated that Article VI shall remain in force only so long as no establishment shall have been formed by the subjects of any other power on the coasts in question. This secret article had the same force as if it were inserted in the convention. The Nootka Convention's applicability to the Falklands dispute is controversial and complicated. The United Provinces of the River Plate was not a party to the convention. Therefore, it is defined in the convention as 'other power' and the occupation of the settlement (at Port Louis) by subjects of any other power negated Article VI and allowed Great Britain to re-assert prior sovereignty and form new settlements.[5]

Second Nootka Convention

The second Nootka Convention, known as the Nootka Claims Convention, was signed in February 1793 and awarded compensation to John Meares for the Spanish seizure of his ships at Nootka in 1789.[6]

Third Nootka Convention

The third Nootka Convention, also known as the Convention for the Mutual Abandonment of Nootka, was signed on January 11, 1794.[7] It called for the mutual abandonment of Nootka Sound. Britain and Spain were both free to use Nootka Sound as a port and erect temporary structures, but, "neither ... shall form any permanent establishment in the said port or claim any right of sovereignty or territorial dominion there to the exclusion of the other. And Their said Majesties will mutually aid each other to maintain for their subjects free access to the port of Nootka against any other nation which may attempt to establish there any sovereignty or dominion".[8]

Unresolved borders

Although the Nootka Crisis originally revolved around the issue of sovereignty and the northern limits of New Spain, the basic issues were left unresolved. Both sides took up positions regarding the border, with Britain desiring it set just north of San Francisco and Spain at the Strait of Juan de Fuca. After Vancouver rejected Bodega's proposal of the Strait of Juan de Fuca the border question was not again addressed and instead left unspecified. The third convention addressed the issue of sovereignty only for the port of Nootka Sound itself.

U.S. claims

The fledgling United States had no claim in this area at the time of the first Nootka Convention. US claims in the region began with Robert Gray's Columbia River expedition. They were strengthened and enlarged by the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the establishment of Fort Astoria by the Pacific Fur Company. The Spanish claims to the Pacific Northwest were acquired by the United States by the Adams-Onís Treaty, signed in 1819. The United States argued that it had acquired a right of exclusive sovereignty from Spain. This position led to a dispute with Britain known as the Oregon boundary dispute. This dispute was not resolved until the signing of the Oregon Treaty in 1846, which divided the disputed territory and established what later became the international boundary between Canada and the United States.

Although the Nootka Conventions theoretically opened the Pacific Northwest coast from northern California to Alaska to British colonization, the advent of the Napoleonic Wars distracted any efforts towards this (as recommended by Vancouver at the time) and the proposed settlement colony in the region was to be abandoned. The Hudson's Bay Company, the remaining British presence in the region, was averse to settlement and any economic activity other than its own, such that settlement and resource development did not take place to any degree until the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush of 1858, which formalized British claims on the mainland still residual from the Nootka Conventions into the Colony of British Columbia.

See also


  1. ^ Benson, Robert Louis; Robert Charles Figueira (2006). Plenitude of Power: The Doctrines and Exercise of Authority in the Middle Ages. Ashgate Publishing. pp. 137–138. ISBN 978-0-7546-3173-6.
  2. ^ Pethick, Derek, The Nootka Connection, p. 260, Vancouver, Douglas & McIntyre, 1980
  3. ^ Tovell, Freeman M. (2008). At the Far Reaches of Empire: The Life of Juan Francisco De La Bodega Y Quadra. University of British Columbia Press. pp. 252–253. ISBN 978-0-7748-1367-9.
  4. ^ Robert J. King, “George Vancouver and the contemplated settlement at Nootka Sound”, The Great Circle, vol.32, no.1, 2010, pp.6-34; At the Far Reaches of Empire, p. 263
  5. ^ See, for example, Chenette, Richard D. (4 May 1987). "The Argentine Seizure of the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands: History and Diplomacy". Retrieved 10 April 2010.; and Todini, Bruno (2007). Falkland Islands, History, War and Economics. Chapter 2: Beginning of the disputes over the Falkland islands sovereignty among Spanish, British and French. pp. 252–253. ISBN 978-84-690-6590-7. Archived from the original on 2009-11-29.
  6. ^ Pethick, Derek, The Nootka Connection, p. 266, Vancouver, Douglas & McIntyre, 1980
  7. ^ Pethick, Derek, The Nootka Connection, p. 268, Vancouver, Douglas & McIntyre, 1980
  8. ^ Carlos Calvo, Recueil complet des traités, conventions, capitulations, armistices et autres actes diplomatiques de tous les états de l'Amérique latine, Tome IIIe, Paris, Durand, 1862, pp.366-368. [1]
1790 in Canada

Events from the year 1790 in Canada.

Adams–Onís Treaty

The Adams–Onís Treaty (Spanish: Tratado de Adams-Onís) of 1819, also known as the Transcontinental Treaty, the Florida Purchase Treaty, or the Florida Treaty, was a treaty between the United States and Spain in 1819 that ceded Florida to the U.S. and defined the boundary between the U.S. and New Spain. It settled a standing border dispute between the two countries and was considered a triumph of American diplomacy. It came in the midst of increasing tensions related to Spain's territorial boundaries in North America against the United States and Great Britain in the aftermath of the American Revolution; it also came during the Latin American wars of independence.

Florida had become a burden to Spain, which could not afford to send settlers or garrisons, so the Spanish government decided to cede the territory to the United States in exchange for settling the boundary dispute along the Sabine River in Spanish Texas. The treaty established the boundary of U.S. territory and claims through the Rocky Mountains and west to the Pacific Ocean, in exchange for the U.S. paying residents' claims against the Spanish government up to a total of $5,000,000 and relinquishing the U.S. claims on parts of Spanish Texas west of the Sabine River and other Spanish areas, under the terms of the Louisiana Purchase.

The treaty remained in full effect for only 183 days: from February 22, 1821, to August 24, 1821, when Spanish military officials signed the Treaty of Córdoba acknowledging the independence of Mexico; Spain repudiated that treaty, but Mexico effectively took control of Spain's former colony. The Treaty of Limits between Mexico and the United States, signed in 1828 and effective in 1832, recognized the border defined by the Adams–Onís Treaty as the boundary between the two nations.

Clatsop Spit

Clatsop Spit is a giant sand spit on the Pacific coast along U.S. Route 101 between Astoria and the north end of Tillamook Head in Clatsop County, northwest Oregon at the mouth of the Columbia River. The Clatsop Spit was formed by Columbia River sediment brought to the coast by the river flow after the last ice age ended approximately 8500 years ago and the ocean level rose. Here it was worked over and shaped by the wind and the waves until a vast and sandy plain was formed.

In regular conversation, referring to Clatsop Spit usually refers to the northern end of the spit: the area that is bound by the Pacific to the west and the Columbia River to the northeast. In the past, the spit was known as Clatsop Sands.

Columbia Rediviva

Columbia Rediviva (commonly known as Columbia) was a privately owned ship under the command of John Kendrick, along with Captain Robert Gray, best known for going to the Pacific Northwest for the maritime fur trade. "Rediviva" (Latin "revived") was added to her name upon a rebuilding in 1787. Since Columbia was privately owned, she did not carry the prefix designation "USS".

Fenis and St. Joseph

Fenis and St. Joseph, also known as the São Jao y Fenix or the San José el Fénix, was a 50 foot brig that visited Nootka Sound in 1792. She was also described as "an open shallop, with only 14 men". She bore a Portuguese flag of convenience, possibly out of Macau and had a Portuguese captain, João de Barros Andrade, but had the Englishman Robert Duffin on board as supercargo (owner and manager of the ship's cargo and trade). Duffin was an associate of John Meares who had organized a number of British fur trading expeditions using the Portuguese flag in order to evade paying for trading licenses from the East India Company. It is probable that Duffin was actually in command of the vessel.The Fenis and St. Joseph spent part of the summer of 1792 in the Queen Charlotte Islands, trading with the indigenous people for sea otter pelts. On 12 August 1792 Adventure, under Robert Haswell, encountered Fenis and St. Joseph near Masset.In mid-September, having gathered about 700 sea otter pelts, Fenis and St. Joseph arrived at Nootka Sound. At the time, diplomatic discussions taking place between George Vancouver and Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra over how to carry out the First Nootka Convention resulting from the Nootka Crisis of 1789. Since Duffin had been at Nootka Sound with Meares in 1788 and with James Colnett in 1789—both key moments of the Nootka Crisis—Vancouver quickly asked him for a sworn statement about the events of 1789 at Nootka Sound. Duffin's report contradicted the reports of Robert Gray and Joseph Ingraham, which Bodega y Quadra had been using to undermine Vancouver's diplomatic position. Where Gray and Ingraham swore that Meares had never purchased any land from the local indigenous chief Maquinna, Duffin said Meares had in fact purchased the whole of Friendly Cove. The point was central to whether Bodega y Quadra would or would not turn over the Spanish settlement at Nootka Sound to Vancouver. Vancouver seems to have had doubts about the veracity of Duffin's account, but confronted Bodega with the new information. Bodega dismissed it, claiming that Duffin could not be objective on the matter. In response to Vancouver's use of Duffin's sworn statements Bodega sought a formal statement from Maquinna, from whom Meares had supposedly made the land purchase. Maquinna came before a group assembled at Bodega's house, including Barros Andrade, the captain of the San José el Fénix (Fenis and St. Joseph), and a number of others, all of whom were to serve as witnesses for an affidavit. Before this group Maquinna flatly denied selling Meares any land. He had only sold a bit of land in Marvinas Bay to the American John Kendrick and he had donated the land at Friendly Cove to Francisco de Eliza, where the Spanish settlement then stood, on the condition that the land be returned when the Spanish withdrew. Between the statements of Duffin and Maquinna the negotiations between Vancouver and Bodega reached a complete deadlock.The Fenis and St. Joseph played an important part in the Vancouver Expedition. The brig left Nootka Sound on 1 October 1792, sailing for China and carrying Vancouver's lieutenant Zachary Mudge, with copies of journals, charts, and logs, as well as reports from Vancouver to the British government regarding the diplomatic impasse that had developed.On 28 October 1792 the brig encountered the Columbia Rediviva at sea. The two vessels and their commanders met again in the Hawaiian Islands, where Captain Haswell personally met Mudge.After meeting Haswell the ship made for Macao, where Mudge disembarked. From Macao, the Fenis and St. Joseph made her way to Madras under a new master, Moore, arriving in April 1793. Mudge took passage from Canton on the East Indiaman Lord Macartney in January 1793, arriving in England in June . The Fenis and St. Josephdid not return to the Pacific coast.

Fort San Miguel

Fort San Miguel was a Spanish fortification at Yuquot (formerly Friendly Cove) on Nootka Island, just west of north-central Vancouver Island. It protected the Spanish settlement, called Santa Cruz de Nuca, the first colony in British Columbia.

HMS Chatham (1788)

HMS Chatham was a Royal Navy survey brig that accompanied HMS Discovery on George Vancouver's exploration of the west coast of North America in his 1791–1795 expedition. Chatham was built by King, of Dover and launched in early 1788. She was purchased for navy service on 12 February 1788.

HMS Sulphur (1826)

HMS Sulphur was a 10-gun Hecla-class bomb vessel of the British Royal Navy, famous as one of the ships in which Edward Belcher explored the Pacific coast of the Americas.

José Joaquín de Arrillaga

José Joaquín de Arrillaga was an officer of Basque origin born in Aia, Spain, who went on to become seventh (1792-1794) and tenth (1800–1814) governor of Alta California.


For the underwater mud volcano, see Maquinna (volcano).Maquinna (also transliterated Muquinna, Macuina, Maquilla) was the chief of the Nuu-chah-nulth people of Nootka Sound, during the heyday of the maritime fur trade in the 1780s and 1790s on the Pacific Northwest Coast. The name means "possessor of pebbles". His people are today known as the Mowachaht and reside today with their kin, the Muchalaht, at Gold River, British Columbia, Canada.

Nootka Crisis

The Nootka Crisis, also known as the Spanish Armament, was an international incident and political dispute between the Spanish Empire, the Kingdom of Great Britain, and the fledgling United States of America triggered by a series of events that took place during the summer of 1789 at Nootka Sound in present-day British Columbia, Canada. Spanish coastguards seized some British commercial ships engaged in the fur trade at an uncolonized coastline area to which Spain claimed ownership. Britain rejected the Spanish claims and used its greatly superior naval power to threaten a war and win the dispute. Spain, a rapidly fading military power, was unable to depend upon its longtime ally, France, which was in the throes of the French Revolution.

Nootka Sound is a network of inlets on the west coast of Vancouver Island, today part of Canada's British Columbia. The crisis revolved around sovereignty claims and rights of navigation and trade. Between 1774 and 1789, Spain sent several expeditions to the Pacific Northwest to reassert its long-held navigation and territorial claims to the area. By 1776, these expeditions had reached as far north as Bucareli Bay and Sitka Sound. Territorial rights were asserted according to acts of sovereignty – customary of the time.

However, some years later, several British fur-trading vessels entered the area to which Spain had laid claim. A complex series of events led to these British vessels being seized by the Spanish Navy at Nootka Sound. When the news reached Europe, Britain requested compensation, and the Spanish government refused. Both sides prepared for war and sought assistance from allies. The crisis was resolved peacefully but with difficulty through a set of three agreements, known collectively as the Nootka Conventions (1790–95). British subjects were then enabled to trade up to ten leagues from parts of the coast already occupied by Spain and could form trade-related settlements in unoccupied areas. Spain surrendered to Britain many of its trade and territorial claims in the Pacific, ending a two hundred-year monopoly on Asian-Pacific trade. The outcome was a victory for the mercantile interests of Britain and opened the way to British expansion in the Pacific. Spain no longer played a role north of California and transferred its historic claims to the United States in the Adams–Onís Treaty of 1819.

Nootka Island

Nootka Island (French: île Nootka) is an island adjacent to Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. It is 510 square kilometres (200 sq mi) in area. It is separated from Vancouver Island by Nootka Sound and its side-inlets, and is located within Electoral Area A of the Strathcona Regional District.

Europeans named the island after a Nuu-chah-nulth language word meaning "go around, go around". They likely thought the natives were referring to the island itself. The Spanish and later English applied the word to the island and the sound, thinking they were naming both after the people.In the 1980s, the First Nations peoples in the region created the collective autonym of Nuu-chah-nulth, a term that means "along the outside (of Vancouver Island)". An older term for this group of peoples was "Aht", which means "people" in their language and is a component in all the names of their subgroups, and of some locations (e.g. Yuquot, Mowachaht, Kyuquot, Opitsaht etc.).

Nootka Sound

Nootka Sound is a sound of the Pacific Ocean on the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island, in the Canadian province of British Columbia, historically known as King George's Sound. It separates Vancouver Island and Nootka Island. It played a historically important role in the maritime fur trade.

Princess Royal (sloop)

Princess Royal was a British merchant ship that sailed on fur trading ventures in the late 1780s, and was captured at Nootka Sound by Esteban José Martínez of Spain during the Nootka Crisis of 1789. Called Princesa Real while under the Spanish Navy, the vessel was one of the important issues of negotiation during the first Nootka Convention and the difficulties in carrying out the agreements. The vessel also played an important role in both British and Spanish exploration of the Pacific Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. In 1790, while under Spanish control, Princesa Real carried out the first detailed examination of the Strait of Juan de Fuca by non-indigenous peoples, finding, among other places, the San Juan Islands, Haro Strait (the entrance to the Strait of Georgia), Esquimalt Harbour near present-day Victoria, British Columbia, and Admiralty Inlet (the entrance to Puget Sound).

Quito School

The Quito School (Escuela Quiteña) is a Latin American artistic tradition that constitutes essentially the whole of the professional artistic output developed in the territory of the Royal Audience of Quito — from Pasto and Popayán in the north to Piura and Cajamarca in the south — during the Spanish colonial period (1542-1824). It is especially associated with the 17th and 18th centuries and was almost exclusively focused on the religious art of the Catholic Church in the country. Characterized by a mastery of the realistic and by the degree to which indigenous beliefs and artistic traditions are evident, these productions were among of the most important activities in the economy of the Royal Audience of Quito. Such was the prestige of the movement even in Europe that it was said that King Carlos III of Spain (1716–1788), referring to one of its sculptors in particular, opined: "I am not concerned that Italy has Michelangelo; in my colonies of America I have the master Caspicara".

Robert Gray (sea captain)

Robert Gray (May 10, 1755 – c. July, 1806) was an American merchant sea captain who is known for his achievements in connection with two trading voyages to the northern Pacific coast of North America, between 1790 and 1793, which pioneered the American maritime fur trade in that region. In the course of those voyages, Gray explored portions of that coast and, in 1790, completed the first American circumnavigation of the world. Perhaps his most remembered accomplishment from his explorations was his coming upon and then naming of the Columbia River in 1792, while on his second voyage.

Gray's earlier and later life are both comparatively obscure. He was born in Tiverton, Rhode Island, and may have served in the Continental Navy during the American Revolutionary War. After his two famous voyages, he carried on his career as a sea captain, mainly of merchantmen in the Atlantic. This included what was meant to be a third voyage to the Northwest Coast, but was ended by the capture of his ship by French privateers, during the Franco-American Quasi-War, and command of an American privateer later in that same conflict. Gray died at sea in 1806, near Charleston, South Carolina, possibly of yellow fever. Many geographic features along the Oregon and Washington coasts bear Gray's name, as do numerous schools in the region.

Santa Cruz de Nuca

Santa Cruz de Nuca (or Nuca), was a Spanish settlement and the first European colony in British Columbia. The settlement was founded in 1789 and abandoned in 1795, with its far northerly position making it the "high-water mark" of verified Northerly Spanish settlement along the North American West coast. The colony was first established with the Spanish aim of securing the entire West coast of the continent from Vancouver island southwards, for the Spanish crown.

Due to the ongoing presence and activities of several British fur trading ships in the same region, and other related factors, this Spanish attempt at making such a substantial claim for possession and conquest along the North American West coast ultimately failed. The colony was also once briefly abandoned between October 1789 and April 1790. In 1795 the colony was finally abandoned for the last time following the final settlement and signing of the Nootka Convention. This final Spanish abandonment of the area left the Spanish missions in the San Francisco Bay area as the most Northerly successful permanent Spanish settlements in that part of the continent.

The Nootka Convention resolved the earlier armed international struggles which had surrounded this colony, and which struggles had almost led to war between Britain and Spain. The colony had been protected by the adjacent Fort San Miguel. Santa Cruz de Nuca was the only verified Spanish settlement in what is now Canada. Some early Spanish maps had claimed the existence of additional Spanish setttlements in the area, however these other unverified local ghost-Spanish-settlements appear to have most probably been merely a "political fiction," created by Spanish cartographers with the aim of dissuading other nations from attempting to expand in the area.

Willamette Falls

The Willamette Falls is a natural waterfall on the Willamette River between Oregon City and West Linn, Oregon, in the United States. It is the largest waterfall in the Northwestern United States by volume, and the seventeenth widest in the world. Horseshoe in shape, it is 1,500 feet (460 m) wide and 40 feet (12 m) high with a flow of 30,849 cu ft/s (874 m³/s), located 26 miles (42 km) upriver from the Willamette's mouth.

Until 2011 a canal and set of locks allowed vessels to pass into the main Willamette Valley. Those locks are now closed.


Yuquot , also known as Fort San Miguel or Friendly Cove, is a small settlement of around six people - The Williams family of the Mowachaht band, plus two full-time lighthouse keepers, located on Nootka Island in Nootka Sound, just west of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. It was the summer home of Chief Maquinna and the Mowachaht/Muchalaht (Nuu-chah-nulth) people for generations, housing approximately 1,500 natives in 20 traditional wooden longhouses. The name means "Wind comes from all directions" in Nuu-chah-nulth.

The community is located within the Strathcona Regional District but like all Indian Reserve communities is not governed by nor represented in the regional district. The Mowchaht/Muchalaht First Nations are rather part of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, which unites the governments of the indigenous communities of the Island's West Coast.

The Canadian government declared Friendly Cove a National Historic Site in 1923, with recognition of the significance of the Spanish colonial settlement that was once there and First Nations history following in 1997.

Early history of Oregon (1500–1806)
Oregon history

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