By order of the Court there is now taking place another of those maritime expeditions which have always characterized the desire of the Monarchy for the acquisition of new knowledge to the benefit of the nation, and in the advance of the sciences. Eight brigs have been armed and provided with abundant provisions, picked sailors, and expert officers, and directed to undertake in pairs, over the course of six years, one of those voyages which could yield extraordinary profit for Navigation, Geography, Astronomy, Natural History and for greater knowledge of the unknown parts of the globe, both aquatic and terrestrial. Although the chief goal of these four simultaneous voyages is to reconnoitre and delineate with the greatest possible precision the far-flung borders of the vast Spanish Empire, this is nevertheless not only this the object to which they are directed: it must also compile a maritime Atlas, purged of errors and defects, and incorporating the results of the most credible Navigators, so as to represent, in the form of well-drawn charts, the geographical description of all the Seas, Islands, Continents, Sandbanks, Countries etc. that become objects of the observation and calculation of the aforesaid mariners during the immense progress of their expedition.
At that time there arrived, as if to infuse new ardour into our navigators, the most encouraging news of the other expedition commanded by Don Alessandro Malaspina , who, after having passed through, to a latitude very seldom reached, the broad seas that bathe the northern coasts of Western America, delineating them minutely and with precision, is believed to have had to turn back and shelter in the Port of Acapulco on the Mexican Ocean. While there he has had two light ships constructed, with which once again a course will be taken along the northern coasts of America, to settle for once and for all, and with certainty if possible, the famous and vexed question concerning the existence of a means of communication between the Atlantic and Pacific seas. The repeated and unceasing explorations of the English nation from the eastern edge of North America, together with the efforts of the celebrated Captain Cook in his last voyage undertaken principally with that object from the opposite side, and after his death by the return to those same seas of Captains Clerke and King, and multiple voyages by the Russians and by the Spanish in the same direction, and for the same ends, have made certain the non-existence of any dreamed-of communication lying behind one or another arm of the sea. There remained, though, the doubt, not yet dissolved, that it could exist by means of some river debouching into the western seas of the North American continent which, directly or indirectly, could sustain the said communication with the Atlantic Ocean through Baffin or rather Hudson Bay, which is of greater extent and penetrates farther into the continent of America. The two aforementioned ships are directed to complete this investigation, and with their help no navigable river will be omitted whereby, through the painstaking exploration, as far as might be possible, of all its branches and tributaries, the doubt will be removed and the darkness which obscures this complicated question dispersed. The solution of this [question] is worthy of the greatness of our Nation, of the extensive and brilliant Colonies that she possesses in America, and of the hopes and efforts of other cultivated and enlightened peoples who are interested in it. For such glorious objectives the crews of the expeditions of which we speak are found to be not only full of courage and of willingness to compete for its ends, but also of that excellent health without which in the space of three years none would remain without the disease of scurvy, too familiar in similar voyages. We know, likewise, that all the persons comprising the expedition of the lauded Don Alessandro Malaspina staying in the Port of Acapulco are being recognized with various rewards, pensions, honours or advancements in rank, our Sovereign wishing in such a way to give an example of the Royal satisfaction and future munificence with which their courage, application, merit and fidelity will be crowned.
Translated by Robert King and John Black. Italian Original
Updated: June 13, 2018