Tuscan in the service of Armada
Alejandro was born (or, if you speak Italian, Alessandro) Malaspina in 1754 in the town of Mulazzo, in Tuscany. His family was a lateral branch of the d'Este dynasty known in Italy. Once it was quite influential and rich, but by the middle of the XVIII century it was already in deep decline. The parents of Malaspina, although they were marquises, were not very wealthy, as a result of which they were forced to leave Tuscany and settle in Naples, where their richer and more successful relatives lived. To study young Alejandro entered the Roman Collegio Clementino, and had to go to serve in the church, but in his youth he had such a rejection of religion that he had to abandon these plans. As a result, relatives sent Alejandro to Malta, where he became a knight of the Order of Malta, and first met with the service in navy.
In 1774, when his father died, Malaspina went to his uncle, who was at that time in Armada, and became a midshipman. Due to his high origin and connections at the court, Alejandro’s career developed rapidly, he received more and more new titles. However, you should not assume that he was an ordinary noble careerist - he worked out all his promotions sooner or later, and with a margin. Already in the 1775-1776 year, he took part in hostilities at Melilla against the Moroccans, the next year went on a semicircular voyage to the Philippines, and a few years later he distinguished himself in the battle lost by the Spaniards at Cape Saint-Vicente, serving under Admiral Juan de Langara .
Having been captured, very soon Malaspina returned to the Spanish flag, and under very interesting circumstances. He remained on his San Julian ship, while most of the officers were transferred to the British ships, and when a storm broke out at night and the British teams lost control, Alejandro was one of the initiators of the Anglo-Spanish “agreement”: the Spaniards take control of the ship under their control and save it from an imminent death on the rocks, and the British humbly surrender this right to them, and they themselves become captives. As a result of this, the flag of Armada was again hoisted over San Julian, and he successfully returned to Cadiz, where Malaspina was raised out of turn and honored as a hero. By this, he again proved that he was not a simple sailor, and indeed a man too.
In the future, Malaspina continued to serve in the Navy and show himself to be able and initiative subordinates, and a good commander. So, during the general assault of Gibraltar, he commanded one of the floating batteries, and quite successfully, even though the assault was repelled with heavy losses. It was not without problems - due to a negative attitude to religion, in the 1782 year he came into the view of the Inquisition, was accused of heresy, but, thanks to the intervention of friends, he was acquitted. This was followed by an increase, sailing on the frigate Asuncion to the Philippines and work on compiling detailed high-precision maps of the coast of Spain. In 1785-1786, he became one of the shareholders of the Cadiz trading company, making profit from trade with the colonies, but it was not all that - he was attracted to the distant seas, unexplored coasts and America. It is in this field that he is destined to achieve his greatest successes.
Alejandro Malaspina and his circumnavigation
Strictly speaking, there was only one round-the-world expedition during the life of Malaspina - accomplished in 1786-1788, at the expense of the commercial Royal Company of the Philippines, during which he, commanding the frigate "Astrea", visited the Spanish colonies of South America, visited Manila, and then through The South China Sea and Cape of Good Hope returned home. On the way back, an outbreak of scurvy occurred on the ship, due to which 16 crew members were killed, which Malaspina took extremely painfully, and in the future he will become an active fighter against this disease in the Navy. In addition, this round-the-world gave him valuable experience, and raised a number of issues that required the sending of a new expedition, this time much more serious.
Arriving in Spain, he immediately went to Madrid, where he was kindly treated at the court of King Carlos III. He immediately “got sick” with the idea of sending several ships to the next expedition, and large-scale preparations started immediately. In La Carraque (Cadiz), in a matter of weeks, two sloops were built, named after the ships of James Cook - Descuberta (Discovery) and Atrevida (Courage). Malaspina himself was appointed to command the first and the entire expedition, and Jose de Bustamante and Guerra became the captain of the second. He was equal in rank with the head of the expedition, and de jure had equal rights with him, but did not harbor this jealousy and, of his own free will, completely obeyed Malaspina, which had a beneficial effect on the success of the expedition. The expedition was staffed not only by sailors, but also by cartographers, botanists, geologists, and many other specialized specialists up to the royal auditors, who had to thoroughly examine the documentation of the colonial administrations, identifying violations and determining the real possibilities of overseas possessions.
Malaspina Expedition Route
The ships set sail on 30 on July 1789, when another king ruled in Spain (Carlos IV), and the Bastille recently fell in France. Their path ran through the Canary Islands to Montevideo, where they arrived in September, followed by a long voyage along the coast of the Spanish colonies to Cape Horn, and then to the north, along the Pacific coast to Acapulco, where Malaspina arrived only in April 1791 . The reason for such a long journey was simple - the ships not only mapped the exact shape of the coast of South America, but also carried out many other scientific studies. Perhaps the most interesting were the studies of Alejandro himself, which dealt with the establishment of the exact situation in the colonies, local orders, customs, development trends and aspirations of the colonial elite.
Plunging deep into politics, Malaspina more and more understood the essence of what was happening in the Americas, and began to put his thoughts and thoughts on paper. When he got to Panama, he was distracted for a while from these matters and made a detailed examination of the isthmus between the two Americas in order to determine the channel route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans - later it will form the basis of the constructed Panama Canal.
In Acapulco, Malaspin was waiting for the order of Carlos IV - to find the Northwest Passage, which was to significantly shorten the route from Europe to China. Therefore, instead of further exploration of the western shores of New Spain, the expedition was forced to go further north, putting more and more shores on the world map. The passage could not be found, but a large-scale work was carried out, a dictionary of local dialects was compiled, friendly relations were established with the Tlingits, some of which recognized themselves as vassals of the Spanish king.
Returning to Acapulco, Malaspina requisitioned two small ships (Sutil and Mexican), appointed two commanders on them (Alcalo Galiano and Caetano Valdes and Flores) and sent them north to clarify the outlines of the coast of North America at this place. From that moment on, the expedition was actually divided - Galiano and Valdez remained to explore America, and the two main ships went further, west, across the Pacific Ocean. On his way across the ocean, Malaspina visited the Marshalls and Mariana Islands, specifying their coordinates and coastlines.
The expedition arrived in Manila in April 1792, after which it split up - Atrevido, headed by Bustamante, went to Macau, and Descuberta at that time carried out research work on the islands of the Philippine archipelago. Having reunited in November, the ships sailed south, sailing past Celebes (Sulawesi) and the Moluccas, visiting New Zealand (South Island) and Sydney, and then headed home. However, having reached Malvin (Falkland), the ships were again divided, and Atrevida, under the command of Bustamante, set off to explore the islands in the southern Atlantic Ocean. After some time, he returned to the Malvins, teamed up with Malaspina, and together the expedition ships returned home, reaching Cadiz on 21 on September 1794 of the year.
This is just a brief retelling of a long voyage that lasted five years, for one article is not enough for the details, and the resulting story will be worthy of its section in a collection like “Frigate Drivers”, which children in our habitats used to read to. As a result of this expedition, an enormous amount of materials was accumulated on the subject of botany, zoology, and geology, and the exact outlines of many shores of the Pacific Ocean basin were put on the world map.
Malaspina conducted a large amount of work in the field of politics - in 1794, he published his work entitled “A Political and Scientific Trip around the World,” in which he detailed the situation in the colonies, analyzed it and proposed a plan for improving and developing the overseas possessions of Spain. The preliminary route of the future Panama Canal was marked out, some navigation methods were improved, the shape of the Earth was clarified. Finally, despite two outbreaks of scurvy during a long voyage, no one died from it - using his own experience and the advice of the expedition's chief doctor, Pedro González, Malaspina introduced citrus fruits into the sailors ’daily diet and regularly replenished them as he entered the Spanish ports. Also, the experts, taken aboard the Descuberts and Atrevids, carried out a complete audit of everything and everything in the colonies, setting exact figures for income, expenses, mining, export, etc., which for some time allowed to reduce minimized various frauds on the basis of the supply of resources to the metropolis.
The amount of work done was so great that it allowed the expeditions of Malaspina to be compared with the voyages of other great navigators of the 18th century, such as James Cook or Laperouse. It goes without saying that such an expedition, according to the results of the work, became the largest in the history of Spain. All that remained was to systematize the information received (more than 70 were compiled detailed maps) and publish it, after which the results of the expedition were to be known to the world, and the Spanish sailors would deserve universal recognition ...
Arrest and oblivion
Alas, Malaspina left one Spain, and returned to a completely different one. If under Carlos III, and in the first months of the reign of Carlos IV, it was, although not without problems, but a completely modern and developing state, then in the 1794 year the sailor met something completely different. The king actually withdrew from power, everyone was ruled by the incompetent Queen Maria Louise of Parma with her lover Manuel Godoy. Corruption and intrigue flourished everywhere, professionals in the state administration were replaced by slabs, the positions of the Afranesados (francophiles) were so strengthened that even during the war with France no one wanted to make an effort to defeat it. All more or less prominent statesmen were fired or fell into disgrace.
The project of reorganizing the colonies proposed by Malaspina turned against her creator, and only thanks to a miracle they managed to escape the trial, but problems began to be published immediately. Only some of the participating scientists published their own research on their own behalf, but no systematic work was carried out - from now on, politics was more important than science. An attempt to intervene in politics and propose a quick plan for the defeat of France by the forces of Spain came up with a very cold welcome.
Deeply offended by all this, being if not a patriot of his second Fatherland, then clearly sympathizing with her fate, Malaspina decided that it was time to save Spain, and for this it was necessary to overthrow the almighty valido - Manuel Godoy. A conspiracy was drawn up, whose leaders included the most progressive circles of the state, the "old guard" of Carlos III, who did not have much love for France. However, the conspiracy was uncovered, and Malaspin, as his actual head, was accused of all mortal sins, up to the desire to overthrow the Bourbons and establish the Jacobin dictatorship, as well as anarchism, separatism (they recalled the project of granting autonomy to the colonies of Spain), and many other isisms that the queen's lover could only come up with.
Model of sloop "Atrevida"
A series of arrests followed, including a titled nobility up to and including the dukes. The duke of Alba, who was supposed to become the new secretary of state after the coup, unexpectedly died at his estate shortly before his arrest, which some considered very suspicious. Participants in the conspiracy were waiting for the courts and execution. But Godoy beat himself, accusing the conspirators of all mortal sins, but without providing a single sane evidence of at least one of them. Even Malaspina’s repeated accusation of heresy did not help — the clergy did not find a single sign of it.
As a result of this, in 1796 the case had to be quietly closed, and the participants in the conspiracy sent to exile or put under arrest. Yesterday, the head of a major research expedition was put without a court verdict under an 10-year arrest in the castle of Sant Antoine de la Coruña, being almost completely isolated from the outside world. However, Malaspina had many sympathizers, and he was able to pass on the news about himself to his relatives in Italy, who began to fight for his release. Alas, the struggle was successful, but very long - only in the 1802 year, with the intervention of Napoleon himself, Malaspin was released and went home, to Italy. Over the years, he did not lose his mind and energy, and, settling in the town of Pontremoli, he began to actively participate in local political life, proposing to the authorities draft tax, administrative and other reforms, fighting the outbreak of yellow fever, working on creating a coastal defense of the puppet Italian Republic . After turning the republic into the Kingdom of Italy, he lost his former importance and influence, coupled with fame, and began to live a quiet private life, not really appearing in public. He died on 9 on April 1810, at the age of incomplete 56 years, about which a note was made in a local newspaper.
The story of the expedition of Alejandro Malaspina turned out to be very characteristic of that era of the sharp, almost instantaneous transformation of Spain from one of the leading research countries into a second world power. He left the first Spain as the head of a promising research mission; he returned to the second, and it was in it that he could not plainly publish the results of his expedition. This, as well as the persecution by Godoy, predetermined Malaspina’s unknownness not only in the world, but also in Spain itself - after the story with the conspiracy no one dared to somehow connect themselves with the disgraced researcher.
Systematically, the results of the expedition were published only at the end of the 19th century, when they were already a little late, and a beautiful and folding story had long been written about drivers of frigates exploring the oceans, in which the Italian had no place in the Spanish service. However, this does not mean that Alejandro was completely forgotten. In Canada, on the island of Vancouver, there is a college named after Malaspina, a glacier in Alaska, a strait, a peninsula is named after him, on the island of Nutka there is a mountain and a lake named in his honor. Spain, together with some Italian enthusiasts, is making serious efforts to make Alejandro Malaspin well-known and let him still take his rightful place two centuries later along with Cook, Laperouz and Bougainville. Recently, some of them even sailed on two modern ships in the footsteps of Descuberts and Atrevids, trying to popularize the name of the researcher.
The success of all this activity seems unlikely to me, and the fate of this researcher and the result of his labors will forever remain an example of how the world history we know can be at least incomplete, and how the fall of a strong state can at the same time bury the merits of one of the most their great adopted sons.