The Coveted Pacific Coast

The Nootka Crisis

A Diplomatic Storm

No one in America had anticipated the diplomatic storm that would blow into the courts of Europe because of the seizure of the British vessels. As soon as rumours of the operation reached England, public opinion was shocked by the event, which had flouted the principle of freedom of the seas. The British were outraged: the British flag and the honour of the country had been sullied by the Spanish military. In April 1790 the arrival of John Meares, one of James Colnett's associates, confirmed the rumours and fanned the flames of anti-Spanish sentiment. In May the issue was debated in the House of Commons. The Admiralty cancelled the expedition that was to leave for the northwest coast of North America and ordered the Royal Navy to prepare for hostilities.