Spain and Great Britain sign the Nootka Convention on October 28, 1790.

  • By HistoryLink Staff
  • Posted 9/21/2006
  • Essay 7957
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On October 28, 1790, Spain and Great Britain sign the Nootka Convention, which ends Spanish claims to a monopoly of settlement and trade in the Pacific Northwest. Nootka Sound, an inlet of the sea on the west coast of present-day Vancouver Island, will later become part of Canada.

Spain claimed the entire Pacific Northwest, based on the Papal grant of 1493, and confirmed when in 1774 and 1775, Spanish explorers sailing north from Mexico became the first Europeans to explore, land, and establish claim to the Pacific Northwest.

Years later, the Spanish, disturbed by news of vessels from Britain, Russia, and the United States sailing in territory they considered their own, sent an expedition to establish a settlement and fort at Nootka Sound. Spanish naval officer Estevan Jose Martinez arrived at Nootka on May 5, 1789, and put his crews to work immediately building a fort and setting up facilities for a permanent settlement. He soon encountered vessels of other nations, including those of the British captain John Meares.

Later that year, the he and his crew captured four British trading vessels associated with Meares. Meares complained to the British government and Britain threatened war. Spain was militarily weak and ultimately acceded to British demands.

The Nootka Convention acknowledged that each nation was free to navigate and fish in the Pacific and to trade and establish settlements on unoccupied land.

Sources: Frederick J. Turner, "English Policy Toward America in 1790-1791," American Historical Review, Vol. 7, No. 4 (July 1902), pp. 706-735; Derek Hayes, Historical Atlas of the Pacific Northwest (Seattle: sasquatch Books, 1999) p. 68-69; John McClelland Jr., "Who's Flag Shall Fly," 2003, typescript in possession of, Seattle, Washington; Encyclopædia Britannica Online Library Edition "Nootka Sound Controversy" (accessed September 21, 2006).

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