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To George Washington from Estéban José Martínez, 14 April 1792

From Estéban José Martínez

Havana. 14 April. 1792.

Most excellent Sir

Supposing that Y[our] E[xcellency] is acquainted with the services which I rendered to the Bostonian expedition commanded by Capt. John Kendrick1 at the time when I was commander in chief of another on the North West coast of America, I take the liberty of troubling Y. E. to the end that interposing your influence with Congress, they may distinguish me with the order of Cincinnatus, for which I shall be very thankful to your Excellency.

I leave this place for Madrid the end of the present month I mention it to Y. E. that you may lay me your commands which I shall obey with pleasure. God preserve you &c.

Stephen Joseph Martinez

Translation, in Thomas Jefferson’s handwriting, DSoC; ALS, DSoC. The Spanish text of the ALS appears in CD-ROM:GW.

Estéban José Martínez Fernández y Martínez de la Sierra (1742–1798) was a native of Seville, Spain, who studied at that city’s Seminario de San Telmo before embarking on a naval career. Between 1776 and 1788 Martínez sailed on a series of voyages to Spanish California and earned a reputation as the commander most familiar with the region and route. In 1788 he led an expedition from San Blas on the western coast of Mexico to explore the Russian fur trade settlements in Alaska and to formalize Spanish claims to the Nootka Sound region, which he had first visited in 1774. In 1789 Martínez was ordered to occupy Nootka with a military garrison, map the adjacent coastline, and take possession of as much nearby territory as possible. His seizure of two English vessels that summer precipitated an international crisis that almost led to an Anglo-Spanish war (see Hamilton to GW, 8 July 1790, source note).

1John Kendrick, Sr. (c.1740–1794), of Cape Cod, Mass., was a whaler and coastal trader who commanded privateers during the Revolutionary War. In September 1787 he led a trading expedition to the Pacific Northwest and China sponsored by Boston merchant Joseph Barrell and five other investors, who put up $50,000 to outfit two ships, the Columbia Rediviva, captained by Kendrick, and the Lady Washington, captained by Robert Gray. The expedition set out in September 1787 and rounded Cape Horn safely, but it had to put in at the Island of Juan Fernández off Chile, where the Spanish commander, who was led to believe that the vessels were personally owned by GW, was later relieved of his command for letting the Americans proceed. Kendrick reached Nootka Sound in September 1788, and in March 1789 he erected Fort Washington at Mawina Cove, seven miles up the sound, on land he later purchased from an Indian chief. Martínez and his expedition arrived off Nootka on 5 May, and shortly thereafter he arrested a British trader who was operating under the Portuguese flag and seized his ship and crew. Martínez began building a schooner at Mawina, purchasing materials from Kendrick, who had set up a forge there. Martínez seems to have left the American traders alone as they had apparently persuaded him that their stay was temporary and that they had no intention of encroaching upon Spanish rights, unlike their British and Russian counterparts. Kendrick later cooperated in the capture of another British trader, and when the Columbia Rediviva and Lady Washington sailed from Nootka in July 1789, they were escorted out of the sound by Martínez’s launch. Kendrick was also granted permission to return the following season.

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