City Readers Digital Historic Collections at the New York Society Library
James Colnett (1755?-1806)
James Colnett (1753 – 1 September 1806) was an officer of the British Royal Navy, an explorer, and a maritime fur trader. He served under James Cook during Cook's second voyage of exploration. Later he led two private trading expeditions that involved collecting sea otter pelts in the Pacific Northwest of North America and selling them in Canton, China, where the British East India Company maintained a trading post. Wintering in the recently discovered Hawaiian Islands was a key component of the new trade system. Colnett is remembered largely for his involvement in the Nootka Crisis of 1789—initially a dispute between British traders and the Spanish Navy over the use of Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island that became an international crisis that led Britain and Spain to the brink of war before being peacefully resolved through diplomacy and the signing of the Nootka Conventions.
Due to Colnett's central role in the initial incident that sparked the international crisis, Colnett's account of his second fur trading voyage, including the events at Nootka Sound in 1789, was published in 1940. His first trading voyage journal remained unpublished until 2005.