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Imperial Rivalries in the Far West
Rivalidades imperiales en el Lejano Oeste

  Parallel Histories Home >> Exploration and Early Settlement >> The Far West >> Imperial Rivalries in the Far West

Warned about the Russian threat to the Pacific Coast in 1759 by the Franciscan José Torrubia (1698-1761), Spain was prompted to send expeditions to northern California and beyond. The Spanish Crown had not intended to settle California and the Northwest, but its intentions changed when it realized that foreign powers were actively exploring and settling the area. Spain decided that to maintain possession of the Pacific Coast, it needed to counteract the expansion of rival empires such as Russia, England, and, after 1783, the United States.

Relations between Spain and Russia were generally positive. In 1788 the Russians wrote to Spain’s chief minister, José Moñino, count of Floridablanca (1728-1808), to assure him that they would enter Spanish ports only in emergencies. Fort Ross, north of Bodega Bay—the northernmost Spanish settlement in San Francisco—was established in 1812 by the Russian-American Company as a base to gather sea otter pelts. That same year, Spain and Russia signed a treaty of alliance directed at their “common enemy,” the French emperor. Spain was still engaged in the Peninsular War (1808-14) aimed at evicting France from Spain and restoring Ferdinand VII to the throne. During this conflict, Mexico began its independence movement and in 1821 finally broke away from Spain. In 1833, 12 years after Mexican independence was achieved, General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo (1808-1890) was sent north of San Francisco by Governor Jose Figueroa Secundino (d. 1835) to keep a close watch on the Russians. Vallejo established the Petaluma Adobe barracks for this purpose. The Russian-American Company sold Fort Ross in December 1841 to John Sutter of Sutter's Fort. The Russians remained in the Pacific Northwest until the 1830s and in Alaska until 1867.


1. In his study of the Russians in California, Father Torrubia anticipated later scientific findings by arguing that the Native Americans had migrated to North America from Asia.

2. Letter from José Moñino, Conde de Floridablanca, to Stephen Zinovieff, April 27, 1788, granting Russian vessels permission to enter Spanish ports only in emergency situations.

3. Chapel inside the walls of Fort Ross, the main Russian outpost in California.

4. Treaty directed against Napoleon also sanctioned trade between Russia and Spain. Provisions hindered the efforts by the Russian American Company to establish a permanent colony at Fort Ross.

5. This 1934 view shows the barracks where Vallejo’s troops were quartered.


Title page of book

I moscoviti nella California, o sia, Dimostrazione della verita del passo all' America Settentrionale nuovamente scoperto dai russi, e di quello anticamente praticato dalli populatori, che vi trasmigrarono dall' Asia. [The Muscovites in California, or rather, Demonstration of the passage from North America recently discovered by the Russians and of the ancient one of the peoples who migrated there from Asia]. Jose Torrubia. Rome, 1759. Rare Book and Special Collections Division. Library of Congress. (1)


Manuscript page

Jose Monino, Conde de Floridablanca to Stephen Zinovieff, April 27, 1788, Permission for Russian Vessels to Enter Spanish Ports Only in Emergency; in Spanish. The Thomas Jefferson Papers Series 1. General Correspondence. 1651-1827. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. (2)


Chapel at Fort Ross

Fort Ross, Russian Chapel, Fort Ross, Sonoma County, CA. 1934. Ref: 2. Historic American Buildings Survey Roger Sturtevant, Photographer Feb. 10, 1934 VIEW FROM SOUTH-WEST. Call#: HABS, CAL, 49-FORO, 1A-2. Prints and Photographs Division. Library of Congress. (3)


Page from treaty

Treaty between Alexander I and Ferdinand VII of Spain. In Russian and French. November 11, 1812. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. (4)


Vallejo Adobe

Vallejo Adobe, Adobe Road at Casa Grande, Petaluma vicinity, Sonoma County, CA. Historic American Buildings Survey. Roger Sturtevant, Photographer. Feb. 11, 1934. VIEW FROM SOUTH-WEST
HABS, CAL, 49-PET.V, 1-1. Prints and Photographs Division. Library of Congress. (5)



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Rivalidades imperiales en el Lejano Oeste
Imperial Rivalries in the Far West

  Historias Paralelas Inicio >> Exploración y Primeros Asentamientos >> El Lejano Oeste >> Rivalidades imperiales en el Lejano Oeste

Puesta sobre aviso por el franciscano José Torrubia (1698-1761) de la inminente amenaza rusa en la costa del Pacífico en 1759, España se vio obligada a enviar expediciones más allá del norte de California. La corona española no tenía intención de crear asentamientos en California y en el noroeste, pero sus intenciones cambiaron cuando se dio cuenta de que potencias extranjeras estaban explorando muy activamente esa región y asentándose en ella. España decidió que para mantener posesión de la costa del Pacífico, tenía que contra balancear la expansión de imperios rivales como Rusia, Inglaterra y, después de 1783, los Estados Unidos.

Las relaciones entre España y Rusia eran generalmente positivas. En 1788 los rusos escribieron al primer ministro español, José Moñino (1728-1808) el conde de Floridablanca, para asegurarle que solo entrarían en puertos españoles en casos de emergencia. Fort Ross, al norte de la Bahía de Bodega—la parte más al norte del asentamiento español de San Francisco—fue establecido en 1812 por una compañía ruso-americana como una base para adquirir pieles de nutria. En ese mismo año, España y Rusia firmaron un tratado de alianza dirigido a su “enemigo común”, el emperador francés. España estaba todavía envuelta en la Guerra Peninsular (1808-1814) para expulsar a Francia de España y restaurar al trono a Fernando VII. Durante este conflicto, México comenzó su movimiento de independencia y finalmente rompió con España en 1821. En 1833, 12 años después de la independencia de México, el gobernador José Figueroa Secundino (m. 1835), envió al norte de San Francisco al general Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo (1808-1890), para vigilar a los rusos. Con este propósito, Vallejo estableció el cuartel de Petaluma. La compañía ruso-americana vendió Fort Ross a John Sutter en diciembre de 1841. Los rusos permanecieron en el noroeste del Pacífico hasta la década de 1830 y en Alaska hasta 1867.


1. En su estudio sobre los rusos en California, el P. Torrubia anticipó los descubrimientos científicos que se harían más tarde al proponer la idea de que los indios americanos habían emigrado de Asia a Norteamérica.

2. Carta de José Moñino, conde de Floridablanca, a Stephen Zinovieff, con fecha del 27 de abril de 1788, dando permiso a barcos rusos para entrar en puertos españoles solo en situaciones de emergencia.

3. La capilla dentro de las paredes de Fort Ross, el puesto de avanzada ruso más importante en California.

4. El tratado dirigido contra Napoleón también permitía el comercio entre Rusia y España. Sus estipulaciones impidieron los intentos de la Compañía Ruso-Americana de establecer una colonia permanente en Fort Ross.

5. Esta vista de 1934 muestra el cuartel donde las tropas de Vallejo se instalaron.


Title page of book

I moscoviti nella California, o sia, Dimostrazione della verita del passo all' America Settentrionale nuovamente scoperto dai russi, e di quello anticamente praticato dalli populatori, che vi trasmigrarono dall' Asia. [The Muscovites in California, or rather, Demonstration of the passage from North America recently discovered by the Russians and of the ancient one of the peoples who migrated there from Asia]. Jose Torrubia. Rome, 1759. Rare Book and Special Collections Division. Library of Congress. (1)


Manuscript page

Jose Monino, Conde de Floridablanca to Stephen Zinovieff, April 27, 1788, Permission for Russian Vessels to Enter Spanish Ports Only in Emergency; in Spanish. The Thomas Jefferson Papers Series 1. General Correspondence. 1651-1827. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. (2)


Chapel at Fort Ross

Fort Ross, Russian Chapel, Fort Ross, Sonoma County, CA. 1934. Ref: 2. Historic American Buildings Survey Roger Sturtevant, Photographer Feb. 10, 1934 VIEW FROM SOUTH-WEST. Call#: HABS, CAL, 49-FORO, 1A-2. Prints and Photographs Division. Library of Congress. (3)


Page from treaty

Treaty between Alexander I and Ferdinand VII of Spain. In Russian and French. November 11, 1812. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. (4)


Vallejo Adobe

Vallejo Adobe, Adobe Road at Casa Grande, Petaluma vicinity, Sonoma County, CA. Historic American Buildings Survey. Roger Sturtevant, Photographer. Feb. 11, 1934. VIEW FROM SOUTH-WEST
HABS, CAL, 49-PET.V, 1-1. Prints and Photographs Division. Library of Congress. (5)