Voyages to Hudson Bay in Search of a Northwest Passage, 1741–1747
Volume II: The Voyage of William Moor and Francis Smith, 1746–1747
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Volume I of Voyages to Hudson Bay in Search of a Northwest Passage described the naval discovery expedition of Christopher Middleton in 1741-2, and the controversy which followed his failure to find a Northwest Passage. This second volume deals with the privately-financed expedition sent four years later on the same quest, commanded by William Moore and Francis Smith. Once more, Arthur Dobbs was the prime mover, and once more he was to be disappointed by the outcome. Quarrelsome captains, tensions during the wintering at York factory, confused explorations, and rival accounts, made a mockery of the hopes of Dobbs and his associates. After the return of the expeditions, the attention of its sponsors turned to a direct attack on the monopoly of the Hudson's Bay Company. Although the Northwest Passage continued to be used as a weapon against the Company, the question of its existence slipped from centre-stage to the wings. Once again, there is a wealth of material concerning the voyage: printed accounts by Henry Ellis and the mysterious 'Clerk of the California'; a manuscript journal by Francis Smith; and the journal, letters and 'Observations' of James Isham, The Hudson's Bay Company factor at York. The volume also includes extracts from private and official correspondence, parliamentary papers, and contemporary pamphlets. Appendix I investigates the apocryphal voyage of Admiral De Fonte: and Appendix II contains a critical analysis of the different accounts of the expedition. Whatever else the expeditions of 1741-2 and 1746-7 accomplished, the publicity given to their explorations brought a greatly increased interest in Hudson Bay and its hinterland. This interest was not always accompanied by accurate and dispassionate information. Even so, a comparison of the knowledge available about the geography, trade and native inhabitants of the Bay area at the time of the Parliamentary enquiry of 1749 with the situation before Middleton's voyage represents a breakthrough in British perceptions of the Canadian sub-Arctic.