British Discovery Literature and the Rise of Global Commerce by Anna Neill (auth.)

By Anna Neill (auth.)

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28 British Discovery Literature and Global Commerce If Cook’s task is to socialize the Pacific in the process of opening it up to trade, William Bligh’s instructions are more overtly tied to colonial profit. His assignment, to transport breadfruit from Tahiti to the West Indies in order to supply food for plantation slaves, did, however, carry the secondary ‘humanitarian’ charge of furthering Cook’s project to deliver botanical and agricultural knowledge to ‘backward’ regions of the globe. In his reconstruction of the events surrounding the mutiny on HMS Bounty, Bligh identifies the rejection of his authority as a symptom of his sailors’ unreflective admiration for the Tahitian lifestyle and their dwindling connections to home.

The goods of which there is an abundance in some parts of the world and a deficit in others are happily re-distributed by commerce. However, nations continue to be threatened from without by foreign rivals and from within by the atomization of society into competing private interests. While, as Ferguson put it, ‘the great work of forming a society … must be carried out with a view to the advantages which mankind derive from commerce and mutual 22 British Discovery Literature and Global Commerce support’ (1966, 16), commerce itself, he shows, has a divisive influence, and it is the ‘rivalship of nations’ that gives civil society ‘object and form’ (24).

13 Yet England did genuinely endeavour to honour the Treaty of Madrid and to restrain buccaneering, both licensed and unlicensed, in the Caribbean and around the coasts of Spanish America after 1670, in which effort the state increasingly found support in commercial circles and amongst colonists. 15 Already in 1670 the King had instructed the new Governor of Jamaica, Thomas Lynch, to pardon privateers for any and all offences committed since 1660 (on condition that they cease all hostilities) and to encourage them to take up planting.

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