Alexandro Malaspina to Paolo Greppi   [1]

Acapulco, April 27, 1791


       Two of your letters, of the 26th and 27th of October last year, caught up with me at different times in Acapulco, where I arrived on the 27 of March, tired of calms and contrary winds which, besides stranding us off the coasts of Guatemala for some 56 days of almost total inactivity, have upset all our plans for this year. While I waited for the Atrevida, which had gone to San Blas, and having to have some repair work done on the corvette, I took advantage of about 20 days to go to Mexico and pay a visit to our Viceroy, [2] who asked about you and entrusted me with giving you his regards. The Count has adopted the best measures for perfecting the state of this realm, from observing which I can tell you that any loyal servant should desire to see the Monarchy stripped of all the rest. [3]

       By means of this excursion, and the kindness with which all the well-informed people shared with me their knowledge, I was able finally to perfect my understanding of America, with a view to balancing the reciprocal interests of all the provinces among themselves and of the whole of America relative to Europe and Spain. I hope to be of service to the Ministry if it is open to considering a general system based on solid and enduring principles. The commerce, defence and legislation of America will never be understood in depth until its principal establishments are examined, as just now by me, without a preoccupation with the customary, without self-interest and without fixed rules. So, then, if, as I desire more and more each day, I can at some time or other attain with you a quiet life dedicated to philosophical discussion, you will see that I am appropriately grateful to a nation which has favoured me with its confidence, and that I have not tried for a moment to evade the duties imposed on me by my birth. It may yet be that once the veil cast over the eyes by bad politics ever since the conquest is removed, and the government of the nation acquires the vigour it needs, so that its true power is displayed, it will not have made us victims of an arrogant nation which is working with its own hands its impending ruin.

       I do not wish in future to trouble you with telling me in detail the news of Europe, to which because of time, distance and [lack of?] newspapers I have become indifferent. Tell me about yourself and our friends and preserve the health which means so much to us. You have told me nothing about Bazzoni, [4] with whom I did not feel it proper to connect myself, preferring to write to Marliani, [5] from whom I have received no response. I am sending him now one thousand five hundred pesos fuertes: five hundred from  Francisco, to be given to my brother for his land, and a thousand for the fifty doubloons which Galiano owes you, and for my last bill for books, tobacco sent to my mother, etc.

       To the same Marliani they will deliver a case of the finest tonic wine, identical in every way to that sent by Cuenca [6] to the King; I have explained to him how to divide it up, and, as I'm sure you realise, you are specifically included in this.

       I am happy that you have received and enjoyed the shipment of natural history specimens that I sent you from Lima through our friend Larreta; I shall send another on my return here, by way of Vera Cruz.

       If the maps of this sea are finished, either by myself on returning here or by Galiano if we do not return here, with even greater perfection than could be desired, illustrating the voyage with an infinitude of useful information and giving the Bailio [7] every reason to be satisfied with what I have been doing here, believe me when I say that I shall consider myself happy enough, although there remain an infinity of critical ordeals to test my luck, and a great distance to cover, before I shall arrive again in Europe. I still cannot hazard a guess as to when that will be; for I think that, returning from the North next October, we shall work our way to the Philippines so gradually that we shall not be there until the middle of [17]92; in which case we shall be content if we complete the whole voyage by the beginning of [17]94, so that I am insisting to our friend Bustamante that we should not jeopardise the completion of any of the work we have at hand for the sole advantage of saving 8 to 10 months.

       With this good friend and among all those on both corvettes there reigns the most perfect friendship. Everyone appreciates our good spirits, our diligence in work and our healthy appearance, which is for most better than when we left Europe. There is a general sadness about our coming separation, [8] although this is directed to the greater perfection of our work, to its prompt publication and to the general benefit in the way of promotions.

       I would not tell you so many trivial details of the expedition if I did not know that you are interested in my concerns, as you have also shown me in your affectionate letter. I sincerely hope that my brother, through his activity and yours, is successful in relation to my religious affairs .[9] In the situation in which I could find myself on my return I shall have great need of a refuge, so that I shall neither be swept aside by rivals nor  run the risk of humiliating myself or joining the ranks of the courtiers. Above all, from such a place I shall be able to express my pure gratitude to Bailio Valdés without making myself appear a schemer or pretender, terms which in our current situation would make anyone tremble .[10]

       You will do me a great favour by forwarding the enclosed to my brother and by sending him a complete or partial copy of the report that I am sending you; as you have charged me, I shall continue sending your letters care of Alberto or of your household; these seem to me the best ways for you to receive them securely.

       You don't tell me anything of Carmichael, Turconi, Trotti or Buchetti. Give them my most sincere greetings, if they are there;  Bustamante, Galiano, Viana, Espinosa and Valdés ask to be remembered to you.

       For God's sake, if friendship does not blind you, all you need remember is a good will and such constancy as you have from your eternal friend,


[Alexandro Malaspina]                                      


P.S. Just after this was written, and almost at the moment for hoisting the sails, a ship arrived from Guayaquil [with] all your letters that I had not already received, and the copies you included of my brother's. Dear friend, as much as I am in your debt for what you have done in support of the awarding of my Cross, I owe you likewise for the patience and clarity with which, among a thousand other tasks, you take the trouble to describe to me in detail the true state of Europe. But what, above all, I give thanks for the most is the report on your personal situation and the reminders of your good friends, who are also becoming mine. As much as I regret at times the impossibility of participating as a friend in your pleasures and pains, so much more do I regret the fact that the latter far outnumber the former. I hope you will spend some time at the side of your father in Italy and not pay attention to the criticisms of your comrades ... certainly they are better acquainted with the house than with the Court! Adieu; I confirm my departure for the first day of May and greatly desire to receive in Mexico your replies, in which, as I mentioned to you, you should save your precious time with respect to news of public affairs. News of you and our friends is all that interests me today.

       You advised my brother wisely on his voyage to Malta on my account and on the drawbacks of my galley .[11] You will see, in what precedes, that I am not seeking the Cross as a means of avoiding work, but only as a guarantee of protection against either humiliation or oppression. Adieu, a thousand times adieu.

[1] Original in ASMi / Greppi (cart. 193, n. 40); Caselli, pp. 169-173; Manfredi 1999, pp. 258-263.  [Editing Criteria]

[2] The Viceroy of New Spain was the Count of Revillagigedo, who must have met and befriended Greppi in Spain.

[3] Malaspina was so convinced of the high quality of Revillagigedo's statesmanship that he thought to include him - as Minister of War and Finance - in the plan for governmental "reorganisation" which he proposed to the Crown in 1795.

[4] Carlo Bazzoni, Imperial Vice-Consul in Cŕdiz, an Italian financier and merchant operating in Spain. Malaspina later corresponded with him, as regularly as circumstances permitted (his letters are kept in ADMM), and repeatedly mentioned his services.

[5] Giuseppe Marliani, a Lombard but resident in Cŕdiz, was a partner of Greppi, having taken over from his father Pietro, who died in 1787. Giuseppe himself died in 1798. On the Marlianis see G. Liva, "L'Archivio Greppi e l’attivitŕ della filiale di Paolo Greppi a Cadice nella corrispondenza commerciale (1769-1799)," Archivio Storico Lombardo, CXXI (1795), Milan, Cisalpino, 1996, pp. 431-487.

[6] Referring not to the city in Spain, but to the settlement of the same name in the Kingdom of Quito.

[7] Referring to Minister Antonio Valdés, who was Bailio of the Order of Malta.

[8] Alluding to Antonio Pineda, Luis Neé, Dionisio Alcalá Galiano and the other men who remained in New Spain while the corvette headed north.

[9] Here again is the theme of a title in the Order of Malta.

[10] One cannot avoid emphasising how obvious is the contradiction, in Malaspina, between his professed claim not to be taken as a political "schemer" and his subsequent presentation of concrete proposals for reforming the Spanish empire.

[11] Alluding to the galleys which constituted the backbone of the fleet of the Order of Malta.

Spanish text courtesy of the Centro di Studi Malaspiniani, Mulazzo, Italy; Italian notes by Dario Manfredi; text and notes translated by Teresa Winthuysen Alexander and John Black.




Updated: June 5, 2018