Alexandro Malaspina to the Officers of the Real Armada (*)

[Cádiz, November 4/1788]

    Open Circular

    A plan that we proposed on September 10th last, and in which we propose to circumnavigate the world in two corvettes, to work on hydrographic charts of the western coast of America and of the Spanish settlements in Asia, and to reconnoitre New Zealand and various islands of the Pacific Ocean has met with the approval of H.M.

    In emulation of Messrs. Cook and Lapérouse, we intend at the same time to carry out as many experiments as possible that can contribute to the progress of geography, navigation and natural history, for which purpose H.M. will provide appropriate ships, instruments and even personnel expert in those abilities which are unrelated to nautical science.

    The duration of the voyage will be from three to four years (1), in very varied climates and countries, along little known coasts, and in [large?] part among people rather more barbarian than civilized. In addition, the number of officers in each corvette will not exceed four or five, so as to reduce the total contingent to the smallest possible number needed for such expeditions; and this in order to secure a combination of all possible friendship and mutual respect, the necessary conformity of disposition and the desire, among all, to distinguish oneself in the midst of fatigue and danger.

    From this, one can see that the tasks to be accomplished will be repetitive and tiring, the dangers numerous, and a certain perseverance necessary to endure the level of subordination that is required for the good order of such enterprises; and with regard to these same circumstances H.M. desires that in the selection of personnel (particularly the naval officers) there is that complete mutual ease which will allow for perseverance in suffering, and for good harmony over such a long time.

    Given this, and it being effectively what we for our part desire, we beg you, if you wish to accompany us in this enterprise in the rôle of subaltern on one of the two corvettes, to tell us if your situation, your state of health, your disposition and ours make this assignment attractive to you and, consequently, if you wish to join it, in which case it will be proposed to H.M.; should you, however, opt for the negative (without any need for explaining your reasons), this decision will be treated with the greatest discretion.


(*) Text published in: D. MANFREDI, Alessandro Malaspina e Fabio Ala Ponzone. Lettere dal Vecchio e Nuovo Mondo (1788-1803), Bologna, Il Mulino, 1999, pp. 140-142. Copies in APSF and AMNM (Ms. 583, cc. 12 v. - 13). Signed also by José de Bustamante y Guerra. The copy in APSF is not dated.  [Editing Criteria]

(1) The voyage lasted for no less than 62 months.

Text courtesy of the Centro di Studi Malaspiniani, Mulazzo, Italy; notes by Dario Manfredi. [Spanish Original]
English translation by John Black.

Updated: June 5, 2018