The Coveted Pacific Coast

The Nootka Incident

A Worrying British Presence

To strengthen Spanish control in the region, Martinez immediately began to erect an artillery platform and a few buildings. The work was well under-way when, on July 2, a British ship, the Argonaut, commanded by Captain James Colnett, arrived from China bearing 28 Chinese workers and considerable equipment in addition to the sailing crew. To top it off, Colnett told Martinez that he had been ordered by his king to build a settlement at Nootka!

This was all Martinez needed to conclude that there was an English plot to invade the northwest coast and to oust Spain. Colnett also refused to submit to Spanish authority. In the course of the discussion, the two commanders, each of whom was hot-tempered, got angry and Colnett put his hand to his sword. Martinez used this gesture as a pretext to arrest Colnett and take his ship. Soon afterward, on July 12, another British ship, the Princess Royal, arrived at Nootka from China. Martinez decided to settle the problem once and for all. Going beyond his orders, he seized all the English ships and sent them to the San Blas naval base in Mexico.