George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Joseph Barrell et al., 20 March 1790

From Joseph Barrell et al.

Boston 20th March 1790

To the President of the United States of America.

The Memorial of Joseph Barrell⟨,⟩ for himself and the other Owners⟨,⟩ of the Ship Columbia & Sloop Washington Most Respectfully Sheweth

That those Vessels were fitted at Boston, for the Pacific Ocean and sailed in the month of September in the year 1787, furnished with Sea Letters & Pass Ports from the United States, and the State of Massachusetts; together with Certificates from the Consuls of France & Holland; that they refreshed themselves at the Cape de Verd Islands, and proceeded on their Voyage around Cape Horn, but meeting with severe weather in doubling the Cape, the Ship Columbia was obliged to touch at the Island of Juan Fernandes, on the 24th May 1788, where she met with Humane treatment from His Excelcy Seignr Don Blas Gonsales, who was Governor of the Island, who suffered them to remain a few days to compleat the repairs they wanted, and to wood and water; for this act of kindness, it appears the said Governor has been removed from his Government, and has suffer’d many inconveniencies; the Knowledge of which has filled your memorialists with very great concern.

Your Memorialists therefore relying on your good⟨ness⟩ have presumed to present a Copy of the several papers, which by the said Governor have been forwarded to the Honble M. Le Tomb Consul of France, which papers are couched in terms that must affect the heart of an honest man; and your memorialists knowing your firm attention to Justice and Humanity, are embolden’d to solicit your attention ⟨to⟩ the situation of the said Governor, and to request you will take such measures, and give such orders to the Minister of the United States at the Court of Madrid, that He may feelingly appear in the cause of Injured Innocence, and represent the truth of this transaction in such manner to His Catholic Majesty, as may induce him to reinstate the said Governor, and compensate him for the Injury he has suffered for this act of Humanity.1

The President of the United States, alive to every just advantage that may attend the Subjects of said States, will clearly see, if his friendly assistance had been deny’d, the Object of this first adventure from America might have been intierly frustrated; and He, will suffer the concerned in the Enterprize, to be importunate and to express their keenest feelings that they have been the innocent cause of a good man’s suffering.

It would be presumeing in your memorialists, to point out anything more to the President of the United States, who will see by the documents accompanying this memorial, what is proper to be done, and the intimations of His own benevolent heart, will we trust induce Him to give as speedy orders on this matter, as His wisdom shall judge necessary.

Your memorialists beg leave to add to the papers, such parts of the General orders given to the Commander of this enterprize, as will shew there was no intention, in any wise to interfere with, or to traffick in any of the Spannish settlements in the South Seas, but only to pursue the object of their Voyage without giving offence to any power whatever.2

Your memorialists relying on your interferrence in this bussiness, as in duty bound will pray.

Joseph Barrell
for himself and the rest of the Concerned.3

ALS, DNA: Miscellaneous Letters.

Joseph Barrell (1739–1804) was a prominent Boston merchant and shipowner. The expedition to the Pacific Northwest was financed by the sale of fourteen shares of $3500 each, and among the shareholders, besides Barrell, were Samuel Brown and Crowell Hatch of Boston, Charles Bulfinch, John Derby of Salem, and the New York merchant John Pintard. The Columbia, with a 212–ton burthen, was eighty-three feet long; John Kendrick of Wareham, Mass., was in command of the Columbia and of the expedition. The Columbia was accompanied by the sloop Lady Washington, ninety tons, under the command of Capt. Robert Gray of Rhode Island. The vessels, which sailed from Boston on 30 Sept. 1787, were the first North American ships to pass Cape Horn. After a stormy passage both ships reached the northern Pacific coast nearly eleven months after they sailed from Boston (Morison, Maritime History of Massachusetts, description begins Samuel Eliot Morison. The Maritime History of Massachusetts, 1783–1860. Boston and New York, 1921. description ends 46–47; Dulles, The Old China Trade, description begins Foster Rhea Dulles. The Old China Trade. Boston and New York, 1930. description ends 52–55).

1Among the enclosures in Barrell’s letter is a communication from the governor of Juan Fernández to Don Theodoro de Croix, 28 May 1788: “I have to inform your Excellency that on Saturday the 24th instant, at about ten in the morning, there was seen, at about a Leagues distance from this Place, a Bostonian Ship with her main & foretop gallant mast to appearance lost, which I was inform’d of by many People that I dispatch’d to reconnoitre her. With this notice & judging that it might be some Barque from the Land which had suffered some damage in a Tempest that happened some days before, I dispatched a Soldier from the Garrison in a Fishing boat to the sublieutenant

Don Nicholas Illanet to get information & see, at the same time, what might offer; which in effect the said Officer executed & at his arrival at the said Ship, he met with a novelty that of a Frigate from Boston called the Columbia, commanded by John Kendrick, & that making signs of Peace, they asked him to come alongside, which he did & at their request went on Board, & was confirmed in that she was a Foreign Ship from the American Republic. That some days before a furious Tempest arose which drove them within an hundred Leagues of these Islands in Company with a Sloop from the same Nation, who had seperated from them, they know not where, & that she was come to take shelter in this Port for the purpose of repairing the masts, & the tiller which was broken to peices, & to wood & water: in case I should give them my Permission; that they had not advanced nearer the Port to prevent giving me the least suspicion. That they had nothing on Board their respective Vessels but Provisions, Charts & other things proper for Navigation, for a proof of which they showed the whole Vessel & the Crew by which the Officer knew that the Relation which had been made him by the above named Captain was true in all its parts. The Crew comprehending himself & three Subaltern Officers, consisted of 40 men, including 16 Boys from 12 to 16 years of age. that they had but 12 Cannon, 6 on each side. With this information, which the above named Officer brought me, & a supplicatory message from the Bostonian Captain in which he requested me not deny him Hospitality by means of which he should be enabled to pursue his Voyage to his own Country, offering to my consideration the sincere Friendship & Peace which subsisted between our Nation & his own, I found myself greatly perplexed with respect to the part I ought to take especially as I had no orders or instructions by which to regulate my conduct in the like & unhop’d for occasion, I at last resolved to grant them what they requested for which purpose I made them the Signal which had been agreed upon between them & the Officer. Upon which they entered the Port & Anchored under the Cannon of the Battery of this place called Santa Barbara, where after the ship was moored, the Captain came on shore in the Boat with four men who remained there while he convers’d with me, which conversation ended by referring me to the Off⟨icer⟩ Don Nicholas Illanet, & to give me thanks for the Liberty that had been granted to him. In the course of this conversation, I agreed with him upon the manner & form which his People were to observe in coming on Shore to wood & water, the days he was to stay here & other matters which military experience dictated be best for the Service of His Majesty; every thing in fine to prevent his forming the least conception of this Place & Port. I ordered them to Anchor, with the greatest expedition, a little within pistol shot of the Mole, for the purpose of observing their proceedings which in fact have not differed in the smallest instance (during the 3 days they have been here) from the agreement I made with them; On the contrary, they have given the greatest proofs of their intention to act in conformity the 3 Days which complete the time granted to them to stay. The above mentioned Ship is very differently constructed from European Ship’s, because the Stern Battery is in the Round House, on a level with the Quarter Deck & the rest of the Ship to the Prow, the Cabbin which you enter by a winding staircase is below the round house & stern battery, it is very clean & the Births for the Officers very convenient, & the whole of the Vessel so clean as that she appears to be finish’d, the binnacle is at the foot of the Mizen mast uncovered & there the Helm’s men stand to manage the helm; the Kitchen & Fire place are all of one peice & placed between the main mast & Quarter Deck; the apartments for the Blacksmith & Carpenters are situated between the fore & main mast. Before the seperation of the Ship, by the above said Storm, from the aforementioned Sloop, the two Captains had agreed that if they should loose sight of one another, they should form a junction in the Environs of these Islands, from whence it may be clearly inferr’d that their intention always was to come to request my permission to wood & water, besides which they wanted nothing; because they carried no Merchandize warlike stores; or other effects, which relate thereto; & for my own entire satisfaction, I agreed, previous to my giving them assistance, that there should be a search through the whole Ship, for which purpose I deputed the Lieutenant Don Gregorio Rubio, which he performed diligently & with the greatest activity, agreeing exactly with the relation given me by the Sublieutenant Don Nicholas Illanet. They requested me that if after their departure the above mentioned Sloop should arrive at this Port, that I would afford the same kindness as to themselves: that the Crew consisted of only ten men & that she had only one mast, that the services & favors I had done them would be engraved on their Hearts, & that, on their arrival at Boston their Republic, they would make known how much they were indebted to our Nation. For the purpose of verifying what they had said above, they left me three medals, one of which I send to your Excellency, another to the President & Captain General of the Kingdom of Chili, & the other I have kept for myself. On these medals are figured or engraved the said Vessels, the names of General Washington & the Captain Commandant John Kendrick.

“The account which he gave me of his voyage & expedition was as follows: That in the month of September of the last year 1787 they sailed from Boston Commissioned to make discoveries especially about those establishments which the Russians hold in & about California, that coming from the above place to this, they had crossed the Line & passed Cape Horn & had not touched at any Port but at the Cape de Verds, that shattered & put in disorder they had gained the Assylum of this Port from whence they should pursue their Voyage with all speed. . . . I hope for your Excellency’s highest approbation & justification of my conduct, & to overlook my defects which may have occurred, since my intention was no other than that of rendering my best services to His Majesty my Lord & natural master” (DNA RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

Among the other enclosures was a letter from Capt. Gen. Don Ambrosio Higgins de Vallenar, 3 Oct. 1788, ordering Gonzalez’s removal from office, a letter from Gonzalez to Higgins de Vallenar, 2 Jan. 1789, describing his removal, and a letter from Gonzalez to Philippe-André-Joseph de Létombe, French consul general at Boston, from St. Jago, Chile, 7 Feb. 1789, writing: “though in this remote Country, to implore your Patronage & your Support, as I do by this medium begging you to have the goodness to facilitate some Recommendation from the United States to the Gentleman residing at the Court of Madrid for his interposition with my King.” All of these letters are in DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

2Also enclosed in Barrell’s letters was an extract from Captain Kendrick’s orders: “The Ship Columbia and Sloop Washington, compleatly equipt for a Voyage to the Paciffic Ocean, & China, We place such confidence in you, as to give you the entire command of this Enterprize.

“It would be impossible, upon a Voyage of this nature to give with propriety, very binding instructions, and such is our reliance on your Honor, ⟨In⟩tegrity & good Conduct, that it would be needless at any time, you will be on the spot, and as circumstances turn up, you must improve them; but We cannot forbear to impress upon your mind, our wish, & exp⟨ectat⟩ion that the most inviolable Harmony and Friendship, may subsist, between you, & the Natives; and that no advantage may be taken of them in Trading; but that you endeavour, by Honest conduct to impress upon their minds, a Friendship, ⟨illegible.⟩

“You are strictly enjoined not to touch a⟨t⟩ any part of the Spanish Dominions on the West Continent of America, unless driven there by unavoidable accident in which case you will st⟨ay⟩ no longer than is necessary, & while there be c⟨are⟩full to give no offence to any of the Subjects of ⟨His⟩ Catholic Majesty—and if you meet with any Subjects of any European Prince, you are to treat them with friendship & civility.

“The Certificates you have from the Fr⟨ench⟩ & Dutch Consul, you will make use of if you meet with any Ships of those Nations, & you wi⟨ll⟩ pay them every Respect that is due to them.

“The Sea Letters from Congress & this State you will also shew upon every proper oc⟨ca⟩sion, and altho’ we expect you will treat all Nations with great Respect & Civility, yet W⟨e illegible⟩ you will suffer Insult & Injury from no one wi⟨th⟩out shewing that Spirit which ever becomes a Free & Independent American” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

3On 11 April 1790 Jefferson wrote to William Carmichael, U.S. minister resident in Spain, recapitulating the circumstances surrounding Gonzalez’s removal and stating that “we are satisfied it is because his case has not been able to penetrate to his majesty’s ministers, at least in it’s true colours. We would not chuse to be committed by a formal sollicitation. But we would wish you to avail yourself of any good opportunity of introducing the truth to the ear of the minister, and of satisfying him that a redress of this hardship on the Governor would be received here with pleasure, as a proof of respect to those laws of hospitality which we would certainly observe in a like case, as a mark of attention towards us, and of justice to an individual for whose sufferings we cannot but feel” (Boyd, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 16:329–30).

Index Entries