CHAPTER VI. Narrative of Captain Cook's Voyage to the Pacific Ocean, to the Period of his Death.
Whilst great praise is due to M. Turgot, for having suggested the adoption of a measure which hath contributed so much to the reputation of the French government, it must not be forgotten, that the first thought of such a plan of conduct was probably owing to Dr. Benjamin Franklin. Thus much, at least, is certain, that this eminent philosopher, when ambassador at Paris from the United States of America, preceded the court of France in issuing a similar requisition; a copy Of which cannot fail of being acceptable to the reader.
'To all Captains and Commanders of armed Ships acting by Commission from the Congress of the United States of America, now in war with Great Britain.
'A ship having been fitted out from England before the commencement of this war, to make discoveries of new countries in unknown seas, under the conduct of that most celebrated navigator and discoverer, Captain Cook; an undertaking truly laudable in itself, as the increase of geographical knowledge facilitates the communication between distant nations, in the exchange of useful products and manufactures, and the extension of arts, whereby the common enjoyments of human life are multiplied and augmented, and science of other kinds increased, to the benefit of mankind in general - This is therefore most earnestly to recommend to every one of you, that in case the said ship, which is now expected to be soon in the European seas on her return, should happen to fall into your hands, you would not consider her as an enemy, nor suffer any plunder to be made of the effects contained in her, nor obstruct her immediate return to England, by detaining her, or sending her into any other part of Europe, or to America; but that you would treat the said Captain Cook and his people with all civility and kindness, affording them, as common friends to mankind, all the assistance in your power, which they may happen to stand in need of. In so doing you will not only gratify the generosity of your own dispositions, but there is no doubt of your obtaining the approbation of the Congress, and your other American owners.
'I have the honour to be, Gentlemen,
'Your most obedient, humble servant,
'Minister Plenipotentiary from the Congress of the United States, at the Court of France.
At Passy, near Paris, the 10th day of March, 1779.'
It is observable that, as Dr. Franklin acted on his own authority, he could only earnestly recommend to the commanders of American armed vessels not to consider Captain Cook as an enemy; and it is somewhat remarkable, that he mentions no more than one ship; Captain Clerke not being noticed in the requisition. In the confidence which the doctor expressed, with respect to the approbation of Congress, he happened to be mistaken. As the members of that assembly, at least with regard to the greater part of them, were, not possessed of minds equally enlightened with that of their ambassador, he was not supported by his masters in this noble act of humanity, of love to science, and of liberal policy. The orders he had given were instantly reversed; and it was directed by Congress, that especial care should be taken to seize Captain Cook, if an opportunity of doing it occurred. All this preceeded from a false notion, that it would be injurious to the United States for the English to obtain a knowledge of the opposite coast of America.
The conduct of the court of Spain was regulated by similar principles of jealousy. It was apprehended by that court, that there was reason to be cautious of granting, too easily, an indulgence to Captain Cook; since it was not certain what mischiefs might ensue to the Spaniards from a northern passage to their American dominions. M. de Belluga, a Spanish gentleman and officer, of a liberal and philosophical turn of mind, and who was a member of the Royal Society of London, endeavoured to prevail upon the Count of Florida Blanca, and M. d'Almodaver, to grant an order of protection to the Resolution and Discovery; and he flattered himself, that the ministers of the King of Spain would be prevailed upon to prefer the cause of science to the partial views of interest: but the Spanish government was not capable of rising to so enlarged and magnanimous a plan of policy. To the French nation alone, therefore, was reserved the honour of setting an example of wisdom and humanity, which, I trust, will not hereafter be so uncommon to the history of mankind.
The progress of the voyage, after the decease of Captain Cook, doth not fall within the design of the present narrative.
[Footnote 16: The particulars of the voyage, after the death of
Captain Cook, of which it did not fall under Dr. Kippis's plan to
give a narrative, will be found in the Appendix.]