DOBBS, Arthur




Author Tags: 1700-1800

As a staunch advocate for increased trade, Arthur Dobbs was a factor in North Pacific exploration because he encouraged the quest to find a Northwest Passage.

To make his case, Arthur Dobbs trumpeted the 1708 publication of the fictional 1640 voyage by a Lima-born Spanish admiral named Bartholomew de Fonte. The report of de Fonte’s remarkable journey through a northern waterway that connected the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, via Hudson Bay, was published in a British magazine called Memoirs for the Curious.

French cartographer Joseph-Nicolas de L’Isle gave further credence to this story when he produced a map in 1752 that credited de Fonte’s discoveries. This led, in turn, to Robert de Vaugondy’s misleading 1755 map in Diderot’s Encyclopédie that includes Lac de Fonte. A 1776 map by Venetian Antonio Zatta also represented de Fonte’s alleged system of waterways to the Pacific Ocean. This was de Fonte’s Strait, the Northwest Passage.

Dobbs also promoted his belief there had to be a Northwest Passage from Hudson’s Bay to the Pacific by circulating a map made for him on the floor of a London tavern by Joseph La France, a “French Canadese Indian”, who had supposedly journeyed inland through Canada from 1739 to 1742. A Surveyor-General of Ireland, Dobbs lobbied for the abolition of monopolies held by the Hudson Bay Company on Arctic exploration and the fur trade. He also maintained minerals in the Arctic would one day become more important than beaver pelts. More effectively, Dobbs urged Great Britain increasingly to favour control of exploratory voyages by the Royal Navy, not private interests. Dobbs was naive about geography but his nationalistic arguments were influential due in part to a 1744 publication.

BOOKS:

An Account of the Countries Adjoining to Hudsons Bay (London, 1744)

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2004] "1700-1800" "Irish"